Centerstage: ARMM

“When I arrived, many of the rooms where the precincts were conducting business were closed, with a military guard right outside the door. When I tried to get in, I was told by the military that I could not, even if I showed him my (canvassing) ID.

“I peeped in and saw that there were people inside. I tried my luck in another building. I was able to get in. And I was shocked to see the BEIs (Board of Election Inspectors) writing on the ballots which had already been thumbmarked. They were writing the same list of candidates on each of the ballots. A man with a bolo was also near the BEI. A ballot box was open (without padlock) while ballots were being placed inside it.

“I saw the same thing (BEI writing on the ballots) being done in two precincts stationed on a stage (it is a school campus). When the BEI and other people around them realized that I was watching them, they whispered to each other but continued with their task. When I left, someone approached me and asked me what I was doing. I told him I’m a watcher, and showed him my IDs.”

In another school in the same town, Jajurie said, there were people “assisting” the voters. “There was no vote secrecy and voters, watchers and ‘other people’ were mingling in the rooms,” she said.

Jajurie said she had information that there were similar incidents in other towns in Sulu, but she admitted she had no opportunity to visit other areas.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has called for the declaration of a failure of elections in Sulu on account of what it described as the “massive fraud” that transpired in the said province.

“Déjà vu”

In its preliminary post-election report released May 21, the election monitoring group Kontra Daya (Anti-Fraud) – which has among its conveners former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., Fr. Joe Dizon, former Transportation and Communication Secretary Josie Lichauco, film director Carlitos Siguion Reyna, retired Army Col. Gerry Cunanan, and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera – noted that the occurrences in the ARMM seemed like a repeat of what transpired in the 2004 elections, where the said region was reportedly a major operating center.

“Kontra Daya finds significant the reports of Maguindanao province delivering a 12-0 sweep for administration senatorial candidates,” the group stated in its report. “There are incoming reports that Sulu province is also poised to deliver a 12-0 sweep for Team Unity. Such an overnight sweep, which the government attributes to overwhelming popular support for the administration, simply strains credulity.”

Kontra Daya has accused Malacañang of engaging in “large-scale electoral fraud” to favor its candidates in the senatorial and party-list elections. It has also denounced the Comelec for being “directly complicit with the Arroyo administration” in perpetuating fraud.(

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