Marawi elections ‘peaceful’ despite low turnout

MARAWI CITY — The Commission on Election (Comelec) provincial office of Lanao del Sur said the special elections on the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan on Saturday was “peaceful and orderly,” despite the low turnout of voters, and other reported incidents of vote-buying and fist fights.

Lawyer Ray Sumalipao, acting Provincial Election Supervisor in Lanao del Sur, credited the success of the special elections in the city to the presence of the military and police units who were deployed in and out of the polling centers.

The presence of government troops deterred rival camps from getting violent which happened in the past elections where ballot snatching and firefights between civilians are common occurrences.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) Ranao congratulated the security forces, election tellers, servers, observers and the Maranao voting public for the generally successful and peaceful elections despite “few fistfights and misunderstandings,” while also few individuals were arrested by the police for election violations such as vote buying.

“But more importantly, this is the first time in Marawi City that not a single person was killed in relation to the elections,” said Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the JTF Ranao.

The same rules during the regular polls were observed and implemented including the opening of ballots and start of the casting of votes at 7 a.m. and its closing at 3 p.m.

“Pero kung ang botante nasa loob na ng polling place within 30 meters at 3 o’clock, pwede silang ilista sa poll clerk then they will be allowed to vote (If the voter is inside the polling place within 30 meters at 3 o’clock, the clerks can list him and he will be allowed to vote),” Sumalipao said.

Zia Adiong, Assemblyman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and a resident of Marawi City, commended the Board of Election Tellers (BET), and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, for exerting efforts to “serve and protect the will of the people”.

Chief Supt. Graciano Mijares, director of the Police Regional Office in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the PNP personnel deployed in Marawi for the election were there not only to secure the perimeter but also as back-up for the teachers as BET.

“(I) salute to the teachers, who, despite of the tremendous pressure, were able to perform their duties ensuring that each vote is counted and protected. This is dedication. This is commitment to serve the public. Democracy in Marawi prevails,” Adiong said.

Lower turnout of voters

Sumalipao, however, said the low voters turnout was already expected considering that many of the residents were not able to go back to their homes, especially those who are from the most affected area.

“We all know na lahat ng mga tao (that most of the people who are also voters) of course mga voters natin, ay nag-evacuate (evacuated) because of that siege, though there are some of those who returned already (to their homes) pero talagang may kulang pa rin (but the turnout is not enough),” Sumalipao said.

Based on the last Comelec record before the siege, of the 50,893 registered voters in Marawi City, 60 to 70 percent of the number is the expected turnout.

Hundreds of displaced voters are still presently staying in evacuation centers and tents outside Marawi City. Some are also temporarily staying in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, and nearby areas in Northern Mindanao.

Sumalipao added that one factor of the low turnout of voters is the fact that 50 out of the 96 barangays had unopposed candidates for barangay chairmanship.

“We all know na medyo intense ang labanan sa pagka-barangay chairman, kahit na may mga magkakalaban sa pagka-kagawad. Pero alam natin na mas interesado ang lahat sa pag-boto sa barangay chairman kaya marami na rin ang hindi na pumunta sa mga presinto para bumoto. Isa rin iyon kaya mababa ang turnout of voters natin (We all know that it’s a bit intense when it comes to barangay chairmanship, because there are rivalries among barangay councilors. But we all know that all voters will be voting for a barangay chairman that is why many no longer went to the precincts to vote. That’s one reason why there’s a low voters turnout),” Sumalipao said. (PNA)