Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Political Developments,Second Quarter of 2010,Part III:The June 3rd Re-Balloting in Lanao del Sur Province

To continue with the goings on in both Lanowan Provinces (Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte),international observers reported all sorts of problematic issues,but of course nothing unusual for either those provinces or for Mindanao in general.

In the municipality of Tuburan,in Lanao del Sur Province,observers from"Healing Democracy"noted that armed men were seen around a polling site.They took issue with the fact that there were not 1 but 2 ID checks for voters,1 at entrances to voting precincts (which are almost always held in public schools),nd then a second at the entrance to the specific room or space within the school where the actual voting took place.Personally I have no problem with that given the huge amount of manipulation taking place during elections.More over,Filipino public schools are not entirely contained within 1 enclosed building.Almost always classrooms are contained in individual buildings connected by covered walkways.It is incredibly easy to infiltrate a public school campus to vote,and vote again at will UNLESS a second ID check is taking place at the entrance to a classroom,or other room,where the actual balloting is to take place.

"Healing Democracy"also took issue with the fact that voters were only allowed into the balloting room in groups of 5 at a time.Of course the resul was that an incredibly slow process evolved.This in turn kept polls open until 2 AM on Tuesday, May 11th and still left many voters unable to vote,and therefore"Disenfranchised."Unfortunately,people cannot have their cake and eat it too as the saying goes.They cannot have safety AND efficiency,at least not in the first automated election that the nation has ever seen (and to be honest,in Mindanao as far as the foreseeable future allows no matter how balloting takes place).Lanao del Sur Province is a very violent province on the nations most violent island,ergo extra safety checks are inevtiable and were only for good measure.IF some voters ended up without a vote,it is most unfortunate but it was one less town with killings.At the very least,when you allow a lot of voters into the balloting room you run the risk of tampering.As any concerned reader will notice,even with the newly automated process there were still instances where miscreants grabbed extra ballots AS WELL AS the ballot box itself.

Part of the problem is allowing international observers with absolutely no clue as to how life is lived here stand around and vet the process.This isn't Iowa,it isn't Amsterdam.

In the town of Masiu,in Lanao del Sur Province where no electricity negated usage of any PCOSs,the camps of candidates Salic Dumarpa and Mohamad Hussein Pangandaman clashed outside a polling site with light gunfire and the AFP had to break things up.Readers might recall those 2 candidates' names from my previous entry,"Political Developments,Second Quarter of 2011,Part II:Election 0related Violence."In that entry vis a vis the kidnapping of Nuralden Yusoph the son of COMELEC Commissioner Elias Yusoph I spoke about both of these candidates having bribed Commissioner Yusoph for a victory and Dumarpa not getting his money worth.The result was the aforementioned KFR (Kidnap for Ransom).

In the municipality of Kapai's Barangay Parao in Lanao del Sur Province,as polls opened at 7AM,the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces,the armed wing of the MILF or Moro Islamic Liberation Front) under sub-Kumander Kubaiab Guwaki of the 102 Base Command under Kumander Bravo began firing at the main poll site.Though a vow had been taken by the MILF/BIAF to ensure no such incidents would take place on Election Day,sub-Kumander Guwaki is himself in the running for Mayor and so perhaps he felt himself above and beyond his organisational commitments.Afterwards,predictably,the MILF/BIAF officially denied any MILF/BIAF had taken part but with international observers photographing and recording these incidents it becomes a joke more than a denial.

Guwaki's son did a bit more.As his cousin Mamak Sangco walked to the polls at 815AM the young Guwaki took and M16 and sprayed him,killing him and sending voters running.Kimal"Kuway"Guwaki,a BIAF guerilla himself hasnt been charged in the incident,but then folks rarely are.Sangco was the brother of the Chairman of Barangay Captains Association (ABC) for Karai,as well as a contender himself in the local election.

At 355PM that day,in Barangay Kunong in the town of Picong (formerly named Sultan Gumander until 2006) in Lanao del Sur Province,2 brothers,both running for mayor,Alinader and Abdullah Balindong,got into a firefight until the AFP was able to effect a ceasefire.Picong is one town where the victor is known already with Alinader winning with 6,808 votes compared to Abdullah who took home a sorry 153 votes.

In that same town's Barangay Baraas on Thursday,April 22nd,2010,four BIAF guerillas under sub-Kumander Kamping Macaurong of the 102 Base Command,under Kumander Bravo,quietly approached the hut belonging to members of the Nanggay Clan and sprayed it with M16s,killing 5 sleeping members ages 2 to 65 and wounding 3 others.

Around the same time that the Balindong brothers were shooting it out in Picong on Election Day,in the town of Pagalungan in that same province of Lanao del Sur mayoral candidate Mohammad Andoy was arrested for having killed the incumbent candidate in the 2007 Elections,Mayor Norodin Matalam.Certainly a curiously timed arrest.

The June 3rd,2010 Re-Balloting took place, as schedualed in the 7 towns declared as having had"Failed Elections"by COMELEC,with only 4 incidents worth noting which is extremely good,all things considered.The AFP's (Armed Forces of the Philippines) 103rd Brigade under Brigadier General Rey Ardo kept things relatively pain free with tight permieters around all 7 towns and an orderly set of patrols around Lake Lanao to bar any cross-lake infiltrations. The 103rd Brigade deployed 1 Company (roughly 100 soldiers plus commanding officers) per affected town and 1 naval gunboat cruised the lake.

The 103rd began transporting PCOS machines (Precinct Optical Scanners) to all poll sites,in convoys that began long before dawn that Thursday,the day of re-balloting.Two MG520 gunships kept up air cover,hovering above each convoy from start to finish.The convoying was also without incident since all 190 precincts were clustered into a compact 27 polling sites.

Many of the communities being Re-Balloted had severe issues with BEIs (Board of Election Inspectors).There were cases of inspectors,who are almost always local public school teachers,being disqualified due to blood relations with candidates,which is an issue that cannot be avoided in Muslim areas due to the propensity for communities having been chartered around Clan settlements.Polygamy,though not universally practiced now,was a very common thing in that region until about the 1920s.Even today men of stature take multiple wives and so,as with Andal Amaptuan Sr. you find men with dozens of children and with each generation that exponentially increases.There were also a fair amount of cases where teachers refused to even appear because of overt threats of violence or just fear of violence because of their negative experiences in past elections.Ergo COMELEC assigned PNP (Philippine National Police) officers and trainees,roughly 800 men all told,to serve instead on the Re-Ballot.COMELEC also deployed its own attorneys from its Special Action Office (SAO) to serve as Municipal Election Officers,of which 1 per town was needed.Yet the same old things took place,though perhaps to a slightly lesser degree,or more likely it probablly just seems as less has taken place beause only 7 communities were holding elections.

In Sultan Dumalondong's Sitio Punong in Barangay Bacayawan,a couple of M203 rifle grenade launchers got some exercise when an unknown force began blasting away just before 1PM that day.By the time the M60 machinegunning began the BEIs (Board of Election Inspectors),all serving PNP (Police) officers,closed down polls for the day.Earlier,as polls began to open at 7 AM,one man had been arrested for trying to bring a pistol into 1 of 3 poll sites in the town,at a Checkpoint set up down the street.

Dumalondong is a very contentious town,perhaps more than the usual contentiousness becausee 11 candidates are vying for mayor,and almost all of them are blood relatives.Likewise,the Municipal Council is faced with 33 candidates for 8 available seats.Like almost all Lanao Re-Balloted towns no winners have been declared for any position as of today,June 30th.

A 2nd shooting took place in Lumba Baybao,with a small child being wounded at a polling site though all in all,no deaths that day CAN be considered a relatively peaceful Election, or Re-Election as the case may be.

Up for grabs in the June 3rd Voting were 1st and 2nd District Lanao del Sur Congressional seats,10 Provincial Board slots,a Vice-Governor position and of course the municipal seats in all 7 towns.

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