"The Country can go high-tech"
The elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were generally peaceful and the automated casting of ballots proceeded smoothly although there were reports of isolated violent incidents, authorities reported yesterday.
PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said the elections were generally peaceful despite skirmishes between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Basilan.
Armed Forces vice chief Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna, who is also head of Task Force Halalan 2008, said the hostilities in North Cotabato between government troops and the MILF did not affect the peaceful elections in the ARMM.
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chairman Henrietta de Villa said the poll watchdog group is satisfied with the turnout of the elections in ARMM despite some reports of ballot snatching and isolated violence.
De Villa said the automated election machines supplied by Smartmatic and Avante Technology Inc. helped in the quick casting of ballots and canvassing.
“So far comparatively (with previous ARMM polls) I see an improvement. It has considerably improved. Definitely there has been a reduction in the anomalies because human handling has become limited and results of the elections would be known in a shorter time,” she said.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo estimated the turnout of voters at about 60 percent.
The ARMM is composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
The region has 1,516,775 registered voters that are expected to cast their votes through the very first automated election system in the country’s history in 1,903 polling precincts to choose a regional governor and vice governor and 24 assemblymen of the Regional Legislative Assembly.
The ARMM gubernatorial candidates are reelectionist Datu Zaldy Puti Uy Ampatuan (Lakas-CMD), Guimid Panalangin Matalam (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Ali Jumadil Omar (independent), Jupakar Pindah-Asia Arabani (independent), Ismain Berto Ibrahim (independent), Alvarez Silal Isnaji (independent), and Ahmad Darping Nooh (Independent).
Bets for regional vice governor are reelectionist Ansaruddin-Abdul Malik Alonto Adiong (Lakas-CMD), Kadra Asani Masihul (KBL), Kursid Hajirie Sampang (independent), Alex Andul Qayyum Langco Ambor (independent), and Ailani Jr. Tan Susulan (independent).
Two types of automated election machines were used – the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) and the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system.
OMR required voters to fill up a ballot, which is then counted with a specially designed machine, while DRE allowed voters to cast their votes through touch screen.
The DRE was reportedly used in Maguindanao while the OMR technology was used in the cities of Marawi and Lamitan as well as in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, and Shariff Kabunsuan.
The police have identified 887 barangays as areas of concern or hot spots while 49 areas were tagged as areas of immediate concern.
Melo said that in Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, there were no reports of any violence in the polling precincts.
Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino, however, said that 47 of the 3,050 DRE machines were replaced due to technical problems.
“Nothing is perfect but replacement machines are readily available. There are 1.5 million voters in the ARMM and if some 1,000 voters, for instance, were not able to vote, I hope that it won’t be the one highlighted (in the media). It’s only a small percentage,” said Tolentino.
Sen. Richard Gordon, author of the election automation law, said the ARMM automated polls showed that the country can go high-tech and discard the manual elections that are tainted with poll fraud.
ARMM polls generally peaceful
By Cecille Suerte Felipe and Sheila Crisostomo
Tuesday, August 12, 2008