Cotabato City election records 'intact' despite fire incident

By Edwin Fernandez

August 29, 2018, 5:36 pm

COTABATO CITY -- Voters registration records destroyed by the recent fire that hit the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office here have been preserved through backup records.

This was the assurance given by lawyer Mohammad Omar Samama, City Comelec officer-in-charge, in an interview Wednesday.

“We have backup records -- the voters have nothing to worry,” Samama told reporters after the Aug. 25 evening fire, which was believed to have been triggered by electrical short circuit and destroyed election documents and computer units.

Samama downplayed fears by many registered voters about possible changes in the number of voters in the city following the fire incident.

“It was very unfortunate a fire hit our office but our records are intact and we leave the investigation as to the cause to fire investigators,” he said.

Cotabato City Mayor Frances Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi has earlier asked the poll body to probe the incident and for the police to fast-track its investigation to determine if the conflagration was intentional.

“Because of this incident, I immediately wrote a letter to the Comelec central office to ask them what will happen to the records in the database when all the computers and the biometric systems were destroyed in the fire,” Sayadi said in a statement.

She said the incident left many Cotabato City residents asking questions, for which she urged the Comelec to take necessary actions to assure everyone of a fair election next year.

The local Comelec office, located at Santa Teresa Street, was gutted by fire at 8:30 p.m. on August 25, leaving a huge part of the building burned down -- including the records section.

Samama said the continuing registration of new voters for next year’s midterm elections and the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law had been temporarily suspended.

He said city Comelec employees are now holding office at the Comelec Office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) along Mabini Street here. (PNA)