2022 Philippine Elections

Tension grips Cotabato as group blocks move to distribute vote counters

Rommel Rebollido
Tension grips Cotabato as group blocks move to distribute vote counters

DAMAGED. A damaged vehicle outside the Commission on Elections in Cotabato City after a commotion over an attempt to move vote-counting machines.

Courtesy of Brigada News-Cotabato City

(1st UPDATE) BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo says there are also reports about alleged attempts to sneak out ballots in Maguindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Tensions gripped Cotabato City on Saturday night, May 7, when a group identified with the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) blocked the movement of vote-counting machines (VCMs) to polling centers from the local office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Naguib Sinarimbo, minister of the Interior and Local Government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said there were also alleged attempts to sneak out ballots ahead of Monday’s elections in the towns of Sultan Kudarat and Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao.

The towns are near Cotabato City.

The police in Sultan Kudarat town denied the allegations in a press statement. It said no ballot snatching took place, and all paraphernalia in the town were intact and safe at the municipal treasurer’s office.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Sabri Lakibul said one Murad Kusain Guiapar reported to the police that a guard allowed eight people into the municipal hall and access the election materials on Friday, but investigators concluded that it never happened.

Sinarimbo said this prompted members of the UBJP – the party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – to closely monitor the movement of election paraphernalia such as the VCMs.

The VCMs in Cotabato were supposed to be tested and sealed earlier on Saturday.

A soldier was hurt, and a vehicle was damaged during a commotion, reported radio station DXMS.

Sinarimbo said they wanted the VCMs to be moved during the daytime on Sunday, May 8, and not during the evening contrary to what Cotabato City police director Colonel Rommel Javier had wanted.

Sinarimbo said he wondered why Javier had insisted on having the VCMs transported on Saturday night.

When cooler heads prevailed, Sinarimbo said, it was agreed that the election paraphernalia would be moved by the Comelec and police on Sunday.

“It is very dangerous and unsafe to move them tonight,” Sinarimbo said.

Several public school teachers who were waiting for their appointments to serve in the May 9 elections in Cotabato City, were still at the Comelec premises when the commotion took place, sending many of them to scamper for safety.

Cotabato City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said the local government would press charges against those responsible for the ruckus that happened at the BARMM compound, adding that there were reports that several teachers and residents were hurt as a result.

Without naming names, Sayadi said what was done was “barbaric and not Islamic,” adding that some people were chased with baseball bats. 

She said many residents were held inside the BARMM compound and could not leave because the gates were locked.

“They were being held against their will and that is illegal detention,” Sayadi said.

“Sa mga gumagawa niyan (To those behind this), there is always a time for everything. You may be very strong now but there will come a time, maniningil ang panahon sa inyo (I will seek a payback). You just wait.” 

Sayadi has long been at odds, politically, with leaders of the BARMM, the same group that founded the UBJP. – Rappler.com

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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