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Vote buying, violence mar polls

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PHILSTAR/EDD GUMBAN

REPORTS OF vote buying and election violence marred the long-delayed Barangay (village) and Sangguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections held Monday, May 14, but officials qualified the reports and said the incidence of violence was lower compared with previous elections.

Assessments on voter turnout also varied as of Monday afternoon’s press briefing by the agencies keeping watch on the polls, led by the Commission on Elections, together with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DoH) and National Youth Commission (NYC).

For his part PNP Chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde said the PNP “carefully tried to validate the vote buying.”

In its statement, the Inter-agency Council for Traffic (IACT) said it apprehended a total of 97 vehicles for various violations including the transportation of so-called flying voters.

“Five public utility jeepneys were captured and impounded on the spot. Two of the jeepneys even have “Comelec service” signage which, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), is illegal,” IACT said, adding it will submit a report to the Comelec.

ELECTION VIOLENCE
Mr. Albayalde, at Monday’s press conference at the Comelec headquarters in Manila, said the “confirmed deaths related to the elections” were lower compared with 2013.

In his update by Monday noon, PNP Spokesperson Supt. John C. Bulalacao said there were 47 incidents of election violence, with 35 killed and 27 wounded since the campaign began on April 14.

Of the 47 incidents, seven of those and 13 deaths were verified by the Comelec to be election-related.

Mr. Bulalacao noted the drop in such incidents, noting the 57 incidents of election violence in 2013.

“These are isolated cases and we still consider the recently concluded Barangay and SK elections relatively peaceful because major parts of country have been peaceful (now) and (if there were) violent incidents, these are in a few areas only,” Mr. Bulalacao told reporters.

The PNP also reported 1,350 arrests for various election offenses this year compared with 3,905 in 2013.

POLICE TAKE OVER POLLS
Meanwhile, a total of 181,212 uniformed police personnel and 30,000 regular soldiers and Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were deployed nationwide.

In Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur, some 1,100 police served as board of election tellers.

For his part, Lieutenant Colonel Harold M. Cabunoc of the 33rd Infantry Battalion said a polling precinct in Paglat town in Maguindanao was bombed by members of the 109th base command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Despite this, Mr. Cabunoc maintained that the election in the town was generally peaceful.

DUTERTE SKIPS POLLS
For his part, President Rodrigo R. Duterte skipped the first barangay elections under his administration, according to his special assistant Christopher Lawrence T. Go.

Mr. Duterte did not show up in his polling precinct at the Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School in Matina, Davao City before polls closed at 3 p.m.

But his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio, cast her vote in the same precinct early Monday.

No reason was given for the President missing the elections. Other Palace officials, such as Mr. Go, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr., and Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar, voted in their respective polling precincts.

Before the 2018 polls, the last barangay elections were held in 2013 during the administration of President Benigno S.C. Aquino III. It was later postponed in 2016 and in 2017 following Mr. Duterte’s warnings that drug money may fund candidates in the barangay elections.

According to the Comelec, there were 78,002,561 registered voters from 42,044 barangays nationwide for this year’s elections.

But their turnout varied. Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo said she noticed fewer residents heading to Tabuco Elementary School, her designated poll station in her home city of Naga, Camarines Sur.

But in Metro Manila, there was overcrowding in not a few precincts. Comelec spokesperson James B. Jimenez cited the situation in Valencia, Quezon City, as also flagged by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, of the polls there being conducted at the “parking space next to the barangay hall” to accommodate the voters. — reports by Camille A. Aguinaldo, Gillian M. Cortez, Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz and Charmaine A. Tadalan





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