Negros Occidental polls delayed by 'ballot switching'
Elections in Hinigaran, Kabankalan, and Escalante were delayed when the wrong ballots were delivered to their respective polling precincts. A number of precincts in Escalante City, Negros Occidental got the official ballots of Kabankalan City, causing confusion among voters.
The two LGUs promptly arranged to exchange their ballots. Representatives from Kabankalan and Escalante met at the office of newly-appointed Commission on Elections (Comelec) Provincial Elections Supervisor for Negros Occidental Ian Lee Ananoria to formally swap the ballots to their proper clustered polling centers.
Poll watchers and members of the media were present during the exchange to ensure transparency and show that there was no foul play involved in the incident.
Voting officially resumed after the ballots were delivered to their correct precincts at around noon time. The incident resulted in the extension of voting hours until 6 PM. (READ: Comelec extends voting to 6 pm in certain areas)
Unable to vote
Meanwhile, more than 600 voters in Barangay Palanog, in Hinigaran town, Negros Occidental were not able to cast their votes because of the lack of proper ballots. The affected precincts mistakenly received the ballots of a barangay in Borongan, Samar, rendering the precincts unable to operate.
“They have not voted yet because they do not have the proper ballots. We had to postpone the elections in the affected areas. We may conduct it tomorrow or on Wednesday, depending on the final resolution of the COMELEC en banc,” said Ananoria.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) picked up the wrongly-delivered ballots by helicopter at noon time, to transport them to their proper polling center in Samar. The ballots for Hinigaran, however, have yet to arrive in Negros Occidental, said Ananoria.
“At our level, we cannot do anything about it. It’s out of our control. We are waiting for the resolution of Comelec en banc. Once they approve a line of action, I will just implement it,” expressed Ananoria.
The newly formed Negros Island Region (NIR) has yet to formally establish a regional Comelec office and appoint a regional director. As of this election, the NIR Comelec still falls under the former regions of the island region’s two halves - Negros Oriental to Region VII (Central Visayas) and Negros Occidental to Region VI (Western Visayas).
“We are still awaiting appointments. It would have been best if the appointments were made before the elections, but after the elections it will become a priority - the appointment of a COMELEC director in NIR,” expressed Ananoria.
The most prevalent complaint in the region during the day was the overheating of vote-counting machines (VCMs). But Ananoria explains that after being switched off and cooled down for a few minutes, the VCMs returned to their functional state.
In Sagay City, Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo G. Marañon Jr, alongside his constituents, had to endure similar delays while voting due to the overheating VCMs.
Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental are 1st class provinces with populations of 1,478,260, and 606,634, respectively. It is a known bailiwick of the Liberal Party. - Rappler.com