Google map of Tabuan Lasa town in Basilan province. The town comprises four islands, namely, Tapiantana, Bubuan, Lanawan, and Saluping.

ISABELA CITY, Basilan – Voters scampered for safety as gunmen from two opposing parties clashed an hour after polling precincts opened here Monday for the national and local elections.

Col. Pedro Martirez, Basilan police director, said the encounter broke out around 7 a.m. in Barangay Boloh-Boloh in the island town of Tabuan Lasa.

Martirez said the gunfight ensued after supporters of Boloh-Boloh Barangay Chairperson Jahid Abbas and Alfad Farouck, a candidate for municipal councilor, crossed paths at the village’s public elementary school.

“The report disclosed that the group of Alfad Farouck was the first to open fire, prompting the camp of Jahid Abbas to fire back,” Martirez said.

No casualty was reported in both camps during the clash that lasted for about two minutes, he said, adding police had to intervene to stop the fighting.

Elsewhere in the province, indiscriminate firing of guns was also reported around 11 a.m. Monday in Barangay Bacung, Sumisip.

Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway, Joint Task Force-Basilan, said a group of gunmen supporting a mayoralty candidate opened fire to prevent supporters of an opposing candidate from casting their votes.

A peacekeeping team was sent to prevent the escalation of violence in the area, Gobway said.

Meanwhile, lawyer Vidzfar Julie, the provincial election supervisor, said in an interview an attempt to snatch official ballots was also prevented in the municipality of Lantawan.

“The voting continued. The election officer of Lantawan did not report any stoppage of voting when we talked this afternoon,” Julie said. (PNA)