Police: Dozens of minors brought to Lanao del Sur to ‘register’ as voters
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — First, their parents reported to authorities that they were lost last Friday.
Later, when they were contacted, about 60 mostly high school students from this city and neighboring towns confessed that they were brought to a municipality in Lanao del Sur to register as voters under fictitious names, police said.
According to Major Evan Viñas, city police spokesperson, the students and out-of-school youth, aged 14 to 16, were boarded in a convoy of seven passenger vans to Butig town.
Viñas said a group of students from Iponan National High School was convinced by a fellow student to go for a joyride to Iligan City Friday morning, but they were surprised when the vehicles did not stop there, but instead, went straight to Butig, the Lanao del Sur town that originally hosted the Islamic State-linked Maute group.
According to those interviewed by the police, the youngsters were brought to a building in Butig, and were told to write a fake name on a sheet of paper that appeared to be a voter registration form.
They also had their thumb prints and photos taken.
Students told police the building where they supposedly registered as voters has no Commission on Elections (Comelec) signage, and the people who assisted them in the process carried high-powered firearms.
The students also noticed men brandishing weapons outside the building.
Further, an emblem that does not resemble the official Philippine flag also hang in a flagpole.
After the paper works, the students said they were given P300 each, and were returned to their respective homes around 10 p.m. on Friday.
“We are still investigating who brought them to Butig. We want to know if they are part of an armed antigovernment group,” Viñas said.
Viñas said part of their investigation was to establish how the students were able to skip classes without the knowledge of their teachers.
He disclosed that some parents went to the police around 7 p.m. last Friday when their students failed to come home.
Shortly after, some of the parents were able to get in touch with their children who told them their experience.
Viñas said the students were told they would be given firearms if they came back on Sunday, Sept. 22.
“This is alarming,” he said./lzb
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