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Butig’s VCM, ballot transport issue heats up at LDS capitol

MARAWI CITY, Lanao del Sur (PIA)–The security force and the supporters of a mayoral aspirant of the municipality of Butig in the province of Lanao del Sur got into a commotion at the ground of Lanao del Sur Provincial Capitol Tuesday, May 10, after the strong objection of the latter to transport the used Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) and ballots from their town to the Provincial Capitol which is situated here in the city.

The supporters of the candidate in the opposition, Potresam Macadato, trooped to the provincial hall and smashed some glass walls in an attempt to get into the building, believing that the VCMs and ballots were taken to a room there. 

Due to the incident, four warning shots were fired to control the area. 

To recall, the town faced challenges on the day of polls as a VCM and ballots were snatched from a precinct in the polling center, Bayabao Central Elementary School in Brgy. Ragayan while ballots were also seized from Butig National High School in Brgy. Sigayan but were returned with almost all of them shaded.

Allegations on the May 9 national and local elections in Butig town

The camp of mayoralty candidate Potresam Macadato asserted that massive cheating and conspiracy have transpired during the elections in their municipality.

Supporters contested why the VCMs and ballots were brought to the provincial capitol when their town is far-off from the capitol, and especially that the incumbent municipal mayor and bidding re-electionist Dimnatang Pansar is a “balae” or co-father-in-law with the province’s current governor, Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr.

 According to Potresam Macadato’s brother-in-law, Maulana Macadato, the issue can be traced back to the day of the elections when he found his polling precinct closed.

He detailed that he had to wait for an hour and pleaded to allow him to cast his vote already so that he could go back to his work. 

Upon entering the precinct, Macadato shared that what he saw was a new Electoral Board (EB) that was put in the position through a midnight appointment. 

He further alleged that a reshuffling occurred even before the elections were conducted.

Accordingly, the election officer who underwent a series of training as a preparation for this year’s polls was replaced by an election assistant who was unknowledgeable of spearheading elections, and has never served in the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and was only appointed as an officer due to hidden agenda. 

Macadato added that the new election officer changed the then designated teachers and some Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel as EB chairmen and members with new individuals who he believed were just ordinary civilians.

“Lahat ng chairman ng 27 clustered precincts ay pinalitan pero ang pumalit ay iyong iba mga civilian… Wala silang training at ang pinalitan nila ay ang mga nakapagtraining na hindi pa mga disqualified na sila ay mga special electoral boards na composed of PNP personnel. Ang sabi ng acting election officer ay pinalitan sila dahil ayaw daw nila [magserve]… May massive cheating at conspiracy pa,” he said.

[All chairmen of the 27 clustered precincts were replaced but those who replaced were, others were civilians… They did not have training and those whom they replaced were the ones who underwent training and were not disqualified from being Special Electoral Boards. The election officer said they were replaced because they did not want [to serve]… There is massive cheating and also, a conspiracy.

Provincial governor’s refutation of negative claims on Butig polls

Hearing the cheating and conspiracy allegations, Adiong denied the claim, stating that the event was only a result of the misunderstanding on the side of aspirant Macadato when the VCMs and ballots were carried to the provincial capitol as her supporters perceived that something would happen to all of it. 

The governor stressed that even way back when he was not yet in the position, such was already a practice, especially for hotly contested places. 

He also underscored that the transport of VCMs and ballots to the provincial capitol was not his decision to make but of the COMELEC’s.

Adiong further stated that he was not aware of the tensions going on in the municipalities and was even informed of snatching of VCMS and ballots in Butig town already late considering that the place had no signal and the means of communication was a struggle. 

He then emphasized that ever since he became the father of the province, no cheating has happened to elections here, and although true enough that he has a relationship with the Butig re-electionist and present mayor as “balaes”, this did not entail manipulation over the votes of the people in the town. 

“Walang nangyaring dayaan. Mula nang maging governor ako, walang nangyayaring dayaan sa Lanao del Sur. Tinatanggal natin ang sinasabi nilang kung may dayaan, ang tinitingnan nila ang Lanao del Sur… Totoo, balae ko iyong incumbent mayor diyan [sa Butig] pero hindi ko kontrolado ang bawat mamamayan ng Lanao del Sur na ito ang gawin mo, ito ang gawin mo,” said Adiong.

[No cheating has happened. Ever since I became governor, there has been no cheating in Lanao del Sur. We are eradicating that when they say cheating, they look at Lanao del Sur… True, the incumbent mayor there [in Butig] is my co-father-in-law but I cannot control each resident of Lanao del Sur that you do this, you do this.]

Moreover, he cited the presence of the security forces during the height of smashing and breaking glass walls as seen in the video presented to him. 

“Nandiyan ang kapulisan natin at army. Nakita naman sa video na habang binabasag [ang mga salamin], walang nagpapacify… Ang sa akin, kapag mayroong nangyayaring kaguluhan, dapat nandiyan ang mga kapulisan natin para ipacify. Hindi iyong aantayin na magkamatayan o magrumble sa magkabilang kampo,” said Adiong.

[Our policemen and army were there. You can see in the video that while [the mirrors] were smashed, no one was pacifying… For me, if there is a ruckus, the policemen must be there to pacify. Not that we will just wait for people to kill each other or camps will rumble.] 

With the recent incident resulting in the shattered glasses, the governor firmly pronounced the need to file a lawsuit against the culprit of the unlawful act but currently, the identity of the person is still unknown. 

Following the record of electoral violence involving the municipality of Butig, the COMELEC has declared failure of elections specifically for the Ragayan village. As such, a special election is expected to take place. (CRG/PIA-Lanao del Sur)


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