GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Deadly explosions marred the polls in Maguindanao and Cotabato on Monday, May 9, violence that began days before the elections.
At least four have been killed despite tight security measures that included beefing up military and police forces.
On the eve of the elections, nine people have been wounded in a series of explosions in Datu Unsay and Sharif Aguak towns in Maguindanao.
As polling began in Buluan town, also in Maguindanao, three members of the barangay police died from a hail of bullets, near the Datu Luminog Pilot Elementary School, said Major Roldan Kuntong, the spokesperson of Maguindanao police.
Kuntong identified the victims as Misuari Dimapalao, Sajid Kamama, and Tata Bulilo. They died on the spot.
A fourth victim, identified as Jadid Ulangkaya, was rushed to a hospital where he is struggling for life as of this posting.
Police said they were gathering information and clues in the hope of identifying the assailants.
In Pandag town, Maguindanao, a political supporter was killed when the car being used by mayoral candidate Toy Mangudadatu was riddled with bullets.
Authorities said two other people were rushed to a hospital after they were shot and wounded in the village of Tamoktaka in Cotabato City.
Also in Cotabato City, tensions escalated as baton-wielding police officers in riot gear confronted a crowd that became unruly at the Datu Siang Elementary School.
On a road near the Kabacan Central Pilot Elementary School in Cotabato province, a crude bomb went off and shook voters, but no casualties were reported.
The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) sounded alarm bells over the escalating tensions in Lanao del Sur, and the explosions in Maguindanao and Cotabato, even as it called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to act fast and prevent the situations in these provinces from worsening.
“Lente expresses its concern about these reports of violence on Election Day as they may instill fear or intimidate voters from exercising their right to vote,” read a statement released by the group.
Lente said it has received information about election-related violence in the provinces of Cotabato and Buluan, Maguindanao, a Comelec-controlled area.
The group also expressed concern about increasing tensions in Lanao del Sur, particularly at the Sultan Pandapatan Elementary School in Bayang, Lanao del Sur. There, Lente said, election was delayed because of tensions between supporters of two rival political groups.
Lente also said the vote-counting machine (VCM) and other election materials there arrived late at 10:18 am or about four hours after the polling precinct was supposed to open.
There were problems with VCMs in other areas such as in the precincts.
At the Isabela East Central Elementary School, Sunset Elementary School, and Maligue Elementary School in Basilan province, Lente said VCMs jammed, and the vote counter malfunctioned at the Karim Elementary School, Irranun Corridor.
Lente said one-hour blackouts also disrupted the elections at the Isabela Bliss Elementary School and Kaumpurnah Elementary School in Basilan. – Rappler.com
Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalists and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship