Nearly 1K Maguindanao cops might serve as poll inspectors amid teachers’ safety fears
COTABATO CITY, Philippines–Close to 1,000 policemen in Maguindanao will be trained to become election inspectors after 996 public school teachers declared that they would not serve in the barangay (village) polls in the province on Oct. 28, citing “outside pressure.”
“We are just waiting for the reply of the (Commission on Elections) central office on our letter request for the training,” provincial election supervisor Udtog Tago said on Monday.
Tago sent a letter to the Comelec main office in Manila last week stating that the teachers were “afraid to serve as BEIs (board of election inspectors) due to outside pressure.”
“We cannot blame them,” Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said. “It is their democratic right to refuse citing security reason, especially in areas where there are intense political rivalry.”
Mangudadatu said the teachers were being harassed and threatened by politicians with armed supporters or “private armies.”
Other areas in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have the same predicament, Chief Superintendent Noel Delos Reyes, regional police director, said.
He said police forces in some areas in Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, especially those occupied by Moro rebels and other armed groups, were told to get ready to act as substitute BEIs.
Maguindanao, which has some 30,000 registered voters, including this city with nearly 6,000, is expected to tighten security in more than 500 voting centers, especially in areas known to be strongholds of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
The BIFF, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been blamed for the recent bombings of power lines, bridges and other government installations in North Cotabato and elsewhere.
The Comelec has set the period from Oct. 11 to Oct. 17 for the filing of certificates of candidacy in the barangay polls. Campaigning begins on Oct. 18 and ends on Oct. 26, two days before voting day.