Basilan folks demand tight election security PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 27 October 2013 14:44

Residents are zealous to cast their votes for favored candidates for barangay positions in the impoverished Tumahubong area in Sumisip town in Basilan, but are apprehensive to come out during the October 28 polling day for security reasons.

Ethnic Yakan and Visayan voters in Barangay Tumahubong, which used to be the wealthiest district in Sumisip, had witnessed how unscrupulous candidates for barangay positions violently worked out their election in past electoral exercises.

“Some of us went out to vote, but failed because the barangay elections in the last two, or three exercises were rigged and our votes became meaningless,” a Visayan community leader said.

Voters want the military to tightly secure the area to enable them to freely vote for deserving candidates for barangay positions on October 28.

Barangay Tumahubong, touted as the economic hub of the west of Basilan from the 1960s until the 1980s, is now a hostile area, gripped by grinding poverty due to mismanagement by barangay officials and misuse of development funds.

Beleaguered residents said their barangay leaders, most of them seeking re-election, managed to railroad their victory during past electoral exercises through intimidation and fraud,  even disenfranchising voters they knew were against them.

Barangay Tumahubong was the seat of operations of the multinational tire producer BF Goodrich Rubber Company from the 1960s until 1984, when a Malaysian firm took over the operation of the almost 5,000-hectare rubber plantation established by its pioneer developer based in Akron, Ohio.

The lands covered by the plantation eventually got divided and distributed to laborers under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program during the time of President Corazon Aquino

It was after the plantation’s having been subjected to CARP that the barangay started to become politically and socially turbulent due to the squabbles for control of the cooperative that grouped beneficiaries together.

Barangay folks have asked the commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, Col Carlito Galvez, Jr., to help empower them anew by providing tight security, through the 64th Infantry Battalion, to teachers and poll personnel tasked to administer the October 28 elections in Tumahubong.

Galvez told The Star via text message he will see to it that all directives from the Commission on Elections on how to peacefully administer the October 28 elections in Tumahubong will be carried out by members of the 64th IB.

Galvez said combatants of the 64th IB will see to it that only legitimate voters and poll watchers deployed by candidates can enter polling sites.

“We shall do everything to help the Comelec ensure honest, peaceful and credible barangay elections in the area,” Galvez said.

Some of the teachers in Tumahubong have asked to be relieved of election duties due to either security reasons, or their being related to certain candidates.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, earlier said Comelec is to deploy 1, 741 policemen to help administer the barangay elections in far-flung areas of ARMM.

Delos Reyes said the policemen, to come from Visayas and Luzon, will act as poll personnel in areas where teachers have refused to render election duties.