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6 injured as armed men attack polling center in Sulu

/ 04:13 PM May 13, 2019

Updated @ 2:26 a.m., May 14, 2019

ISABELA CITY, BASILAN, Philippines — Six people were wounded and a number of vehicles were burned after a group of armed men attacked a school used as a voting precinct at Panglima Estino town in Sulu province on Monday, a local official said.

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Panglima Estino Mayor Ben Estino said the armed men who attacked Tiptipon Elementary School at 7 a.m. appeared to be targeting his supporters and stayed in the school grounds until past noon.

Estino said he and an undetermined number of people were trapped inside the school building until the armed men left.

“They were targeting our people. They were chasing them with bullets up to the precinct,” Estino said.

Estino, who is not running for any position, said he was at the precinct escorting his father, Munib Estino, one of the three mayoral candidates in the town.

He identified the wounded as Ibno Sahipa, 66; Asiri Sadjaanu, 70; Barsi Abou, 46; Omar Ibbo, 57; Nadzra Munib, 42; and Ussong Isnaji, 32, all residents of Barangay Lubok-lubak.

Estino claimed the armed men were from the camp of a political opponent who was demanding the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to declare a failure of elections in the town.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the tension at Tiptipon Elementary School had died down by 3 p.m., allowing the town’s almost 5,000 voters to cast their ballots.

“The two parties agreed to resume the election. There is no failure of election,” he said.

Scare tactics

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In Manila, Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson, said scare tactics were used in Mindanao by some groups who used explosives and goons apparently to try to dissuade voters from taking part in the elections.

“The message they wanted to send was for the people not to vote by scaring them,” he said.

In Maguindanao province, the 57th Infantry Battalion found a plastic container of improvised explosive device in Barangay Salbu, Datu Ampatuan town, at 7:35 p.m. on Sunday.

Later at 10 p.m., an explosion hit an area near the Cotabato City Hall. The military said the blast was meant “to disrupt the sorting of voting paraphernalia that will be used on Election Day.”

At 7 a.m. on Monday, another explosion hit Poblacion Dalican in Datu Odin Sinsuat town. No one was reported hurt.

In Northern Luzon, voting at Aringay Central School in Aringay town in La Union province was briefly disrupted on Monday morning after two men shot and mauled a poll watcher, police said.

Joy Balaoro, 32, shot and missed his target, Romeo Balanan, whose hat was grazed by a bullet, according to Police Maj. Daniel Banan, Aringay police chief.

Balaoro’s companion, Dilan Sadiri, then punched Balanan.

Banan said Balaoro and Sadiri entered the school compound at 9:30 a.m. and went straight to the precinct where Balanan was assigned. Without any provocation, Balaoro pulled out his gun and shot Balanan.

Banan, who was with a police contingent in the school compound, immediately arrested the suspect and his companion.

Voting continued after the suspects were arrested. Seized from Balaoro was a .38-caliber handgun with three bullets.

Abra fight

In Abra province, two fights broke out between supporters of rival candidates at polling areas in Bangued town.

Police said Bangued mayoral candidate Ryan Luna went to a precinct in Barangay Zone 3, brandishing a memorandum from the Department of the Interior and Local Government that directed local officials to stay 50 meters away from a polling area if they were not voting.

Luna’s presence at the precinct caused a commotion, police said.

Col. Alfredo Kiwad Dangani, acting chief of the Abra Police Provincial Office, said Luna was reported to have slapped a supporter of his rival candidate.

Luna’s camp had yet to comment on the allegations but they reported seeing preshaded ballots in the precinct. Police confiscated the ballots in question for investigation.

In Southern Luzon, a mauling incident involving an aide of a mayoral candidate in Cavite province and a shooting incident where a supporter of another mayoral candidate was wounded were reported to the police on Monday.

In Cavite, security aides of incumbent Trece Martires City Mayor Melandres de Sagun were accused of beating up a legal aide of Gemma Lubigan, widow of Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan, outside a polling precinct.

Gemma Lubigan confirmed the incident but declined to identify her legal staff, citing security concerns.

Confrontation

A source, who witnessed the incident but asked not to be identified due to security reasons, said Lubigan’s aide was inside the polling precinct at Osorio Elementary School around 10 a.m. when De Sagun arrived to cast his vote.

“They had a brief confrontation. After that, [Lubigan’s aide] went out but he was followed by the [mayor’s] bodyguards and was beaten up,” the source said.

De Sagun, according to the source, was not able to vote anymore as the mayor left with his bodyguards.

De Sagun, who is serving his last term, is not running for any position. The INQUIRER tried to seek De Sagun’s comments, through his chief of staff Raymund Eguillos, but the calls went unanswered.

In Palawan, two supporters of rival mayoral candidates in Narra town were wounded in a gunfight on Sunday night, police said.

Capt. Ric Ramos, Palawan Police Provincial Office spokesperson, said Andy Maala, a supporter of reelectionist Mayor Lucena Demaala was in critical condition after he was shot by Fred Danao, a brother of candidate Gerandy Danao.

Fred Danao was hit in the leg after Maala returned fire.

Threats

In the Visayas, lawyer Marchel Sarno stepped down from his post as chair of the board of canvassers (BOC) in Cebu City’s south district after receiving threats, through text messages, on Sunday.

The text messages read: “usa ra ka ka bala (Just one bullet is needed to finish you)” and “tago na lang (You better hide).”

Sarno decided to quit his post to remove doubts about his impartiality and for the threats to stop, said lawyer Veronico Petalcorin, acting Comelec director in Central Visayas. Sarno was replaced by lawyer Chaunsey Boholst.

Police also received reports that armed men were roaming the city’s mountain villages, asking residents not to vote.

In Barangay Sudlon II, some residents said they were afraid and hesitated to cast their votes after armed men fired their guns in the village past 9 p.m. on Sunday.

—Reports from Julie Alipala, Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez, Gabriel Cardinoza, Valerie Damian, Villamor Visaya Jr., Maricar Cinco, Shane Frances Montecillo, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Dale Israel and Nestle Semilla, and Jeannette Andrade In Manila

(Editors: Julie Espinosa and Alexander T. Magno)

/pdi

See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here https://inq.ph/Election2019

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TAGS: attack, Election 2019, elections 2019, Sulu, Tiptipon Elementary School
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