Isolated offenses mar ‘relatively peaceful’ 2018 barangay and SK elections

‪A senior citizen votes in an emergency accessible polling place at the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology in Sta. Mesa, Manila. (Comelec photo)

Scattered cases of vote buying, missing names in voter lists, and isolated reports of threats and intimidation marred the conduct of the generally peaceful Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections nationwide.

“We still consider the recently-concluded Barangay and SK elections relatively peaceful because majority of the parts of the country have been peaceful,” Philippine National Police spokesperson John Bulalacao said in a news conference.

“If there were violent incidents, these are in a few areas only,” he added.

The PNP says at least 33 people have been killed since the election period started last May 4, adding there are fewer violent incidents this year compared to 2013, the last time voters elected village and youth leaders.

The May 14 elections were twice postponed – Oct 31, 2016 and Oct 23, 2017. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Barangay elections, by the numbers)

Poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) noted various election offenses.

“Vote-buying and vote-selling, unlawful entry of candidates in polling places, illegal voting through flying voters, unlawful electioneering and violent disturbances” were observed throughout the day, it said in a statement.

“Limited accessibility of polling places, resulting in difficulty in voting for persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and heavily pregnant women, were prevalent in various areas in the country,” LENTE added.

Among the cases documented by the group were vote buying in, among others, Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City; Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro; Hagonoy, Bulacan; Mayantoc, Tarlac; Panaon, Misamis Occidental; and Barugo, Leyte.

The same LENTE database shows that in Iligan City, at least 20 persons were not able to vote because they could not find their names in the voter lists, while in General Santos the names of deceased voters still appear in lists.

In Sitio Pinaganakan in Bulacan, a candidate was reportedly shot, the election watchdog said, while in Tondo, a poll watcher was reported to have harassed an electoral board member.

Peaceful elections were observed at the Delfin Jaranilla Elementary School and the Vicente T. Villanueva Elementary School, both in Cavite.

Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon has urged the public and members of the media to file complaints.

“Those who witness vote buying activities should file a complaint,” Guanzon said in a news conference. “If reporters, for example do not want to testify, how can Comelec convict perpetrators?”

More than 1.17 million candidates vied for some 671,000 seats in the country’s 42,000 barangays. Those who win will serve until 2020. — Jake Soriano

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