Comelec: Incidents ‘minimal’
“We are happy. Everything appears to be OK,” Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said.
The Comelec monitored “very minimal” incidents during the barangay (village) elections obn Monday, Brillantes told a news conference after the balloting.
The Philippine National Police said the barangay elections were “relatively peaceful” despite reports of violence in certain parts of the country.
“We consider these barangay elections peaceful … because we did not have any major incidents that affected the general conduct of the elections,” PNP Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr. told reporters.
Elections were held in 42,028 villages in the country, but the Comelec said voter turnout appeared to be lower than the expected 79 to 80 percent.
The Comelec had predicted a high voter turnout after 1 million voters registered earlier this year for the barangay elections.
Brillantes said voter turnout in Metro Manila could reach 55 to 60 percent, and he would not predict a higher figure in the absence of actual voting records.
Election officials in Western Visayas estimated voter turnout at 78 percent to 88 percent.
Voter turnout in Central Visayas was estimated at 87 percent and in Eastern Visayas, 85 percent.
There were no reports yet from other parts of the country as of early night on Monday.
Polling precincts opened at 7 a.m. on Monday and the balloting ended at 3 p.m., followed by the counting of the votes.
Counting the barangay votes was done by hand, as the elections were not automated, unlike the midterm elections in May that employed ballot scanners and counters.
Brillantes said the Comelec’s monitoring center recorded 18 incidents of election-related violence that happened on Sunday and Monday as balloting went on in the villages.
‘Very, very minimal’
“Eighteen out of 42,000 contests all over the country is very, very minimal, almost nothing,” Brillantes said.
“The incidents reported are very isolated cases when you compare them to statistics in 2010,” he added.
Among the “isolated” incidents reported to the Comelec were shootings and snatching of ballots or ballot boxes.
Brillantes said the delayed arrival of election materials and the snatching of ballots or ballot boxes were immediately remedied following the Comelec’s contingency plans, including reprinting or using improvised ballots.
Violence was reported in Matti town and Digos City in Davao del Sur province; Midsayap town in Cotabato; and Mariveles town in Bataan.
There were also reports of violence in Cuartero town, Capiz province, and in Toboso town, Negros Occidental.
Ballots were reported missing in Tonsuya village in Malabon, Metro Manila, and ballots and other election paraphernalia in Barangay Bukut-Umus, Tabuan-Lasa, Basilan, were reported to have been snatched.
A ballot box was also snatched from the board of election tellers in Barangay San Antonio, Catubig, Northern Samar.
Among the other election-related violent incidents were an explosion at Don Mariano Marcos Elementary School and Isaac Ablayan Elementary School in Davao del Sur on Sunday and the holding of voters in Barangay Marfil, Rosario, Agusan del Norte, allegedly by supporters of a barangay chair on Monday.
The elections on Calayan Islands in Cagayan were reset because election materials had yet to arrive there.
The Comelec said the elections in five island barangays in Calayan, Cagayan, would be held on Oct. 31 while the barangays on the main island of Calayan would have elections on Oct. 30.
Catherine Bangi-Allas, provincial election supervisor in Cagayan, reported that the ballots and other election paraphernalia were not delivered on time due to bad weather.
Bangi-Allas said the election officer tasked with conducting the training for the barangay election tellers (BET) had not arrived on the island, also because of bad weather.
Meanwhile, the Comelec said that in areas where there could be failure of elections, the incumbent barangay officials would not be allowed to serve in a holdover capacity.
Brillantes explained that in cases where there were incidents of intimidation and irregularities such as ballot snatching, the Comelec may place those areas under its control.
The Comelec also received reports of vote-buying. Brillantes said, however, that the reports did not bother the election body.
“As long as there’s evidence against the erring candidate, we can always go after them, disqualify them, even if they’re already proclaimed winners, as well as file criminal charges against them,” he said.
Brillantes urged the public to “closely monitor cases of vote-buying and report them to the Comelec.”
“We will definitely act on their formal complaints,” he said.
The Comelec also launched its “Voting in the Malls” project for senior citizens and people with disabilities at SM-Manila on Monday.
“Aside from SM-Manila, similar pilot projects were also launched today in SM malls in Lipa City, Cebu City and General Santos City. We’re looking into the possibility of holding elections for the seniors and people with disabilities in 2016 not just in SM malls but also in other shopping centers nationwide,” he said.
Election Commissioner Grace Padaca was in Cebu City on Monday to “monitor the launch of the Comelec pilot project there,” according to Brillantes.
Contacted in Cebu City by phone, Padaca reported that the barangay elections in the island-province and other parts of Central Visayas were “generally peaceful.”—With reports from Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Joey Gabieta and Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas