2013 village polls in ARMM a marked improvement from 2010’s–Comelec exec
MANILA, Philippines – The just-concluded barangay (village) elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were anything but perfect, Elections Commissioner Al Parreño has acknowledged.
There were a “few isolated incidents” of election irregularities in the region grouping the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday.
But in general, the barangay polls in the ARMM had been “relatively smooth and generally peaceful,” noted Parreño, who was in the region from Oct. 26 to Oct. 31 to monitor the polls.
In a two-page report to the Commission on Elections en banc, a copy of which was furnished the INQUIRER, he disclosed that there was “failure of elections in only 12 barangays compared to 462 during the 2010 barangay elections.”
All 12 cases were reported in Maguindanao. In 2010, a total of 44 incidents of failure of elections were reported in the same province.
The Comelec also “saw a significant drop in the number of election-related casualties on Election Day (Oct. 28) with only four deaths recorded in the region – two in Basilan, one in Maguindanao and another one in Lanao del Sur. At least 32 deaths were recorded in the ARMM during the 2010 barangay polls.
“Other (2013) barangay election-related incidents included cases of ballot snatching and violations of the gun ban. One classroom in Bayang, Lanao del Sur, was set on fire, but it failed to deter to conduct of elections at the polling center there,” reported Parreño.
On October 26, Parreño flew to Cotabato City where he met with election officers from Maguindanao. The following day, he proceeded to Marawi City where he met with Comelec officials from Lanao del Sur.
The poll body earlier identified Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur among the “areas of concern” nationwide during the election period.
For its part, the Philippine National Police had listed as “watch list areas” a total of 995 barangays in the ARMM: 440 in Lanao del Sur, 383 in Maguindanao, 118 in Sulu, 53 in Basilan, and one in Tawi-Tawi.
According to Parreño, they “made surprise visits to several municipalities in Lanao del Sur on election day in coordination with the PNP regional command in the ARMM.”
The Comelec cited the “strong PNP support,” among other factors, for the success of the barangay elections in the region.
In his report, Parreño also recommended “better planning to ensure the prompt delivery of election paraphernalia in island-barangays and other hard-to-reach areas in the ARMM.”
He also called for “improved communication between Comelec offices from the regional level down to the municipal level, especially in areas with weak cellular phone signals,” as well as “better coordination between the poll body and support groups in the region.”