By JIGGER JERUSALEM
MALABANG, Lanao del Sur – Tension was felt by voters in some polling centers here during the elections yesterday.
It was already past 6 am, the time that polling precincts were supposed to open, but a huge crowd was still gathered, queueing up at the front gate of the Malabang National High School in Barangay Campo Muslim, this municipality.
Voters were grumbling and some attempted to force their way past the gate but were stopped by police officers and soldiers.
A long line of women has formed outside the gate, but later the elderly were given the priority to enter the campus.
A 77-year-old woman said this was the first time that the opening of the precincts was delayed.
Aquil Andog, a member of the monitoring team from the Department of Education’s Lanao del Sur provincial division, said the security personnel guarding the entrance should have allowed the people to enter.
“It’s already 9 o’clock. Only a few were able to cast their vote. They should consider that it is Ramadan and most of the Maranaos are fasting,” Andog said.
“What we want is a peaceful election, and for the people to express their right to vote,” he added.
Soldiers tasked with ensuring the electoral process to go smoothly explained that they allowed people to enter by batches so they can check the bags of voters.
“They said it’s for security, but as you can see, no trouble has taken place yet,” Andog said.
At the gate, mounds sample ballots and other election-related items that were not allowed inside the voting facility were confiscated by the security personnel.
Once inside the school, the people were made to wait under a mango tree that provided shade for the waiting crowd, but most of them did not mind the heat of the morning sun as they walked in droves to the classrooms to cast their vote.
An e-mail from the International Alert Philippines listed some election-related incidents in Lanao del Sur, among them harassment, threats, intimidation, face-offs between supporters of political candidates, the spread of fake news, and other acts.