Monday, October 29, 2007

RP Polls Peaceful

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo casts her vote Monday Oct. 29, 2007 at Lubao Elementary School in her hometown Pampanga province during the Barangay and SK elections. (Rey Baniquet)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 29, 2007) – Philippine authorities said Monday's polls were generally peaceful in the southern region of Mindanao, although there were some reports of killings and failure of elections over a few areas.

Filipinos cast their ballots for the Barangay (village council) and Sanguniang Kabataan (youth council) elections. More than a million candidates ran for various electives posts for the country's 42,000 villages, but over 600,000 only would be chosen.

The last elections were held in 2002 after several postponements due to lack of funding.

"The elections were generally peaceful and orderly, although there were some reports of violence in Basilan province and a failure of elections in some areas in Sulu and Lanao," Maj. Eugene Batara, spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga city, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said there was a failure of elections in Panglima Estino town in Sulu province because government teachers acting as poll officers boycotted the elections.

The teachers earlier warned they would boycott the elections to force the Muslim autonomous region to pay their salaries. Thousands of teachers said they have failed to receive their salaries for many months now and others claimed payments they made for state pension were missing.

Supt. Salik Macapantar, Basilan police chief, said one candidate was killed, but his attacker had been arrested after a long chase on Malamawi island. Another candidate was also shot and wounded in Isabela city by his political rival. Both men were running as village chieftain.

Elections in the towns of Al-Barka, Ungkaya Pukan and Tipo-Tipo, where Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels were active had been peaceful also, Macapantar said.

The three areas were closely guarded by policemen, he said.

"Overall, elections in Basilan are peaceful and there were less poll-related incidents. The people have been very active in guarding the elections to ensure honest polls and that's what we had in Basilan," Macapantar said in a separate interview.

Elections were also peaceful in central Mindanao, but there were reports that gunmen harassed poll officers in some areas in the region, according to Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division.

"We are waiting for reports, but so far, there have been few poll-related incidents," he said.

Philippine police chief Avelino Razon said the polls were successful with few election-related incidents. He said there were only 29 reported deaths compared to 75 in 2002. And only 48 poll-related incidents from 159 five years ago. (Mindanao Examiner)

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