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Teachers endure special elections

Poll workers trek through rough terrain back and forth for 6-7 hours
/ 12:32 AM May 16, 2016
VOTERS queue for special elections in Nagpapacao, a village in the remote town of Matuguinao in Samar province. JENNIFER SUMAGANG-ALLEGADO/INQUIRER VISAYAS

VOTERS queue for special elections in Nagpapacao, a village in the remote town of Matuguinao in Samar province. JENNIFER SUMAGANG-ALLEGADO/INQUIRER VISAYAS

LOPE DE VEGA, Northern Samar—Members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) walked for three hours to get to Barangay Roxas on Friday, a day before special elections in the village, to prepare.

An hour after they got to Roxas, the most remote village in this town and site of clashes between rebels and soldiers, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial office received an order from its head office at 5 p.m. that the special elections for Roxas would be held at the town proper instead.

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Although there was grumbling, BEI members started trekking again at 6 a.m. on Saturday to the covered court beside the municipal building here in Barangay Poblacion, venue for the special elections.

The rest of the special elections in four other villages in Cebu, Negros Occidental, Antique and Samar went on smoothly.

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The Comelec declared failure of elections in Roxas after residents fled the village out of fear of another clash between rebels and soldiers after the killing of a soldier by a rebel sniper on the eve of the May 9 elections.

Most residents went to Barangay Poblacion to stay with relatives.

On Friday, teachers went to Roxas, enduring a four-hour walk to a village that is not accessible by motor vehicles.

They arrived in the village at 4 p.m. An hour later, provincial election supervisor Antonio Gulay Jr. received a copy of a resolution, transferring the special elections to the town proper.

“I pity the teachers,” said Gulay. “But we have no choice,” he said.

The BEI is composed of chair Arnold Saludario and members Romeo Sabilao and Nemia Medrano.

Long walk

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Medrano, who was the first to reach the town proper, complained of the long walk under the heat of the sun.

But voters who had gone home to Roxas would not want to go down again to the town proper, about 16.8 kilometers away, she added.

The special election was delayed because Col. Mario Lacurom, the Army’s 803rd Brigade commander, had to look for a helicopter that would take the vote counting machine to Barangay Poblacion.

He found one, which came from Catarman, about 33 km from Lope de Vega.

The helicopter arrived at 2:40 p.m. but the special elections did not start on time because lawyers of the National Unity Party (NUP) sought to suspend it.

Noel Fernandez, lawyer of Rep. Harlin Abayon, said the voting should not start since Abayon’s supporters had not arrived from the mountains.

But Herbert Mescriola, Liberal Party lawyer, moved to proceed with the elections.

The BEI decided to proceed with the elections at 4:10 p.m. The Comelec en banc extended it for four hours, or up to 9 p.m., to give time for voters to descend from their mountain communities.

Although Roxas has a voting population of only 168, results of elections there would affect results of the tight first district congressional race between rivals Abayon and former Deputy Speaker Raul Daza.

Lack of guidelines

In Antique, special elections in Anini-y and San Remigio town had been moved further to Monday.

Jessie Suarez, provincial election supervisor, said elections in a precinct in Barangay Mabuyong in Anini-y and a precinct in Barangay Insubuan in San Remigio were moved due to lack of guidelines from the Comelec central office.

He said guidelines issued by the central office was not applicable to Antique because results had been transmitted although some winners were not proclaimed.

At least 302 voters in the two towns (268 in Anini-y and 34 in San Remigio) were unable to vote on May 9 due to lack of ballots.

Results from Anini-y had been transmitted but the proclamation of the winner in the mayoral race was suspended because Maxfil Policar (National Unity Party) was only 65 votes ahead of Jobert Pahilga (Liberal Party).

In a village in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao province where special elections were also held yesterday, most voters expressed preference for policemen to handle future elections.

The presence of policemen, said Romeo Abdulla, a voter in Barangay Katuli, led to peaceful and orderly elections in the village. With reports from Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla P. Gomez and Joey A. Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas and Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: BEI, Board of Election Inspectors, Comelec, Elections 2016, province, Special elections
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