By MENCHANI TILENDO
COTABATO CITY — Election-related violence and anomalies in several parts of the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have been reported by poll watchdogs and local media organizations.
In Cotabato City, Canizares National High School, Sero Central Elementary School, Cotabato City Institute, and Datu Siang Elementary School, the opening of the polling centers was delayed for almost three hours.
Long lines of voters with senior citizens in the frontlines have raised concerns on the inefficient conduct of elections. Poll watchers noted that the delays might have been due to the briefing of police and military personnel as serving Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs).
Incidents of violent riots involving groups of unidentified men carrying wooden batons with nails were also reported in Canizares High School and barangay Datu Siang.
In Matanog Central Elementary School in Matanog, Maguindanao, poll precinct opened at 7 a.m. Voters are accommodated every 30minutes.
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In Buluan, Maguindanao, a member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPATs) was killed at around 7:40 a.m. after being shot multiple times by unidentified suspects. According to Police Major Roldan Kuntong, the shooting incident happened outside the Datu Luminong Pilot Elementary School.
In Lanao del Sur, a shootout between supporters of rival groups left one dead according to a report submitted by poll watchdog Kontra Daya.
“In an attached video, armed groups can be seen ransacking a polling precinct at a school in Barangay Magonaya in Binidayan, Lanao del Sur, destroying ballots and the vote-counting machine in an attempt to disrupt voting. As the video progresses, people can be seen destroying property and fighting each other. According to the report, due to the incident, one person died as a result of injuries from severe beating. The military has verified these reports,” the group said.
On the eve of the elections, nine individuals were seriously injured in separate incidents of bombing in Maguindanao.
Philippine National Police Spokesman P. Maj. Roldan Kuntong said in an interview with Brigada Cotabato that the first bombing incident happened at around 7:05 p.m. in Datu Unsay, and was followed by another one in Shariff Aguak. The identified victims reportedly came from far barangays and it was their practice to travel to their respective voting precincts the night before elections.
Following the May 5 protest staged by more than 200 public school teachers due to their replacement as poll workers, over 500 special police forces were designated to serve as BEI in Cotabato City. After two attempts of the final testing and sealing of the vote counting machines (VCMs), commotions took place on May 8 as the uniformed personnel moved the machines from the BARMM COMELEC to the Cotabato City Central Pilot School for the rescheduled testing and sealing.
Aside from the designated police BEIs, more than 9,000 police and military forces have been deployed to various provinces in the region.
Additional police forces were also deployed in priority provinces Datu Odin Sinsuat, Sultan Kudarat, Datu Piang, Buluan, and Mangudadatu. These places were earlier identified under Comelec control due to their critical history as election hotspots in Maguindanao. (JJE, RVO)