Comelec probes polls delay in remote Northern Samar villages

By Sarwell Meniano

May 15, 2018, 5:32 pm

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) regional office here has yet to find out why the opening of voting centers in two remote villages in Silvino Lobos, Northern Samar was delayed.

Comelec 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Jose Nick Mendros said that based on reports from the Philippine Army, the delay was not related to any serious peace and order concern, although members of the electoral board were reportedly blocked by some individuals.

“The teachers got the authority to deliver ballots before Election Day since the two villages in Silvino Lobos can only be reached through four hours of hiking. We still have to find the real reason why they started late, but there’s no intimidation from armed groups, as reported by the military,” Mendros said.

Voting in Deit De Turag village started at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. It was stopped after sunset due to the absence of electricity and generator. Casting of votes resumed early Tuesday morning and counting was still ongoing as of 10 a.m., according to the Comelec official.

In Caghilot village, the polling center opened past Monday noon and vote counting began late at night.

Some villages in remote Silvino Lobos town have been tagged by authorities as election hotspots due to threats from the New People’s Army (NPA). The town is accessible through a six- to eight-hour upstream motorboat ride from Pambujan town. It is accessible by land during sunny days through hours of motorcycle ride and hiking.

Last week, patrolling soldiers encountered about 60 Communist rebels in upland Imelda village in Silvino Lobos town. One soldier was wounded while there was an unknown number of casualties on the NPA’s side.

Meanwhile, Mendros reported that delays in the submission of the list of proclaimed winners have been encountered in Northern Samar, Samar, and Eastern Samar provinces due to accessibility problems.

“Some candidates were declared Monday, but until Tuesday morning, our Comelec offices have not yet received the documents, especially from far-flung areas,” he added.

As of Tuesday noon, some members of the electoral board in 130 villages have not yet submitted the list of proclaimed winners. The region has 4,390 villages in six provinces.

Mendros said the election was generally peaceful although it was not smooth in some areas due to disorganized precincts, absence of names on the voter’s list, vote-buying reports, gun ban violations, minor arguments, and brief power interruptions. (PNA)