Comelec: Long-delayed barangay, SK polls ‘generally peaceful’ despite localized violence

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Comelec: Long-delayed barangay, SK polls �generally peaceful� despite localized violence
People cast their votes at a polling station during the nationwide village and youth representative elections in Manila on October 30, 2023.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The long-delayed Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections have been “generally peaceful” so far, despite incidents of violence reported in some parts of the country, the Commission on Elections said Monday. 

Millions of Filipinos flocked to polling centers to vote for village and youth leaders for the first time since 2018. Around 672,000 seats are up for grabs in Monday’s polls. 

“The elections are generally peaceful, although there were some incidents of violence, especially in the Bangsamoro region,” Comelec Chairperson George Garcia said in a briefing. 

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, the citizens’ arm of Comelec, echoed this observation. 

“It seems that our Barangay and SK candidates are behaving well. There are just a few reported incidents where some are attempting to campaign by distributing sample ballots,” PPCRV national coordinator Arwin Serrano told state broadcaster People’s Television in Filipino. 

Canvassing began as voting in the Barangay and SK polls concluded at 3 p.m., except for a few precincts that experienced delay. 

Pockets of violence

Elections are a traditionally volatile time in the Philippines, where a culture of political violence prevails. The poll body placed 365 barangays under the “red category” or the highest category for areas of concern ahead of the local elections.

In Maguindanao del Norte, two supporters of a candidate for village chairman were killed and four others were wounded while they were on their way to a roadside polling site. 

A woman was also killed when a gunfight broke out after a van carrying a village captain and her supporters was stopped on a road by individuals supporting her rival in Lanao del Norte. 

In Lanao del Sur, the husband of a barangay captain died after he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with his wife’s opponent. 

Voting resumed in two polling precincts in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan this afternoon after a candidate’s supporters destroyed official ballot forms. According to Garcia, the Board of Election Inspectors decided to list down the names of voters and use extra ballots from neighboring precincts. 

The Comelec chief also reported a fist-fighting in a polling precinct in Nunungan, Lanao del Sur. 

“Of course, there is no perfect election. Walang election na hindi nawala ang pangalan ng mga botante. Walang eleksyon na walang nagsuntukan at nagputukan. These incidents have always occurred,” Garcia said. 

“The important thing is to prosecute those responsible for these actions,” he added. 

The last village polls took place in 2018 and were postponed twice in 2020 and 2022. 

The barangay is the smallest political unit in the Philippines, but its leaders have considerable influence. Political parties strategically utilize council posts to establish grassroots power bases.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. described Monday’s polls as “crucial” in shaping the national political landscape. — with report from John Unson, Agence France-Presse

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