This photo shows a ballot box floating in floodwaters behind the municipal office of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.
Sam Zailon Esmael, Facebook
Ballot box found in Maguindanao floodwater was stolen, says Comelec
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - June 17, 2019 - 5:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — The ballot box reportedly found submerged in water in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao had been stolen from the municipal office, the Commission on Elections said Monday as it disputed allegations of fraud in the 2019 midterm elections.

A certain Sam Zailon Esmael on Friday posted photos on Facebook of the ballot box that was allegedly found in floodwater behind the municipal office by a village peacekeeper. Esmael —whom the Comelec said ran for mayor of Datu Salibo but lost—accused the poll body of committing fraud.

“Narito rin po ang mga boto ng mga tao kung saan nilubog o pinalubog ng Comelec para maisagawa niya ang pandadayang kanilang ginawa para maipanalo niya ang winning candidate na si Solaiman Sandigan for mayor sampu ng kanyang vice mayor at Sangguniang Bayan,” Esmael said.

(Here are the votes of the residents submerged by Comelec to conduct fraud for the winning mayoral candidate Solaiman Sandigan and his vice mayor and Sangguniang Bayan lineup to succeed.)

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez noted the custody of ballot boxes after election day is with the city or municipal treasurer as mandated by law.

“Ali Mamoribid, the municipal treasurer of Datu Salibo, asserts the ballot box found allegedly submerged and abandoned had been stolen from the municipal office by still unidentified persons,” Jimenez said.

The incident is being investigated by the Philippine National Police, he added.

Comelec maintains polls were ‘fraud-free’

The Comelec spokesperson also “strongly” denied allegations of poll fraud in the May 13 elections.

“Contrary to allegations made by Esmael and in the absence of any proof of fraud, Datu Salibo Election Officer Mary Ann Marohombsar maintains that the conduct of the May 13 polls in her jurisdiction was fraud-free,” Jimenez said.

The commission also cautioned the public against believing “unfounded claims and malicious allegations.”

“Actions are now being taken to set the facts straight and hold to account those who are responsible,” Jimenez said.

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