Tension heightens in Maguindanao town as ‘3rd placer’ is proclaimed

- John Unson -
PARANG, Maguindanao — Tension in this town, locked in electoral controversies involving local political factions since the May 14 polls, worsened the other day when the oft-criticized municipal election officer proclaimed as mayor-elect a candidate who allegedly ranked only third in the tabulation.

Worse, the proclamation was done in a plush hotel in Cotabato City, not in the command headquarters here of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the designated canvassing site for election returns from this town’s polling precincts.

The regional office of the Commission on Elections in Cotabato City could not give details on the whereabouts of this town’s election officer, Ruwaina Sayyadi, who reportedly has left for Manila after declaring re-electionist Mayor Ismael Biruar winner in the mayoral race.

Thousands of Muslim and Christian voters blockaded for one day last week a portion here of the Secretary Narciso Ramos Highway to dramatize their sentiments against alleged maneuverings by Sayyadi to rig the results of the canvassing in favor of Biruar.

Bombarded with complaints, lawyer Clarita Callar, the Comelec’s Region 12 director, was quick to clarify that she has no control over proclamations of winning candidates by the board of canvassers in any town under her jurisdiction.

"Complaining parties may go to the Comelec central office in Manila to elevate there whatever grievance they have," Callar said over radio station dxMS, Cotabato City’s leading broadcast outfit.

A popular imam here, who requested anonymity, said the local Muslim religious community is convinced that Sayyadi’s proclamation of Biruar allegedly had the blessing of Commissioner Mehol Sadain, Comelec’s commissioner-in-charge for the ARMM.

"Sayyadi is a Tausug, so is Sadain and the Marine officials who provided the board of canvassers security escorts," the Muslim preacher said.

Residents said they also suspect that Callar had given Sayyadi the go-signal to proclaim Biruar.

Gaudencio Teves, a member of Parang’s town council, said Biruar’s proclamation was based only on votes he had garnered from 30 of the 114 polling precincts here.

"That was a midnight proclamation, extremely irregular and highly questionable," Teves said.

Supporters of retired Army Col. Vivencio Bataga, an independent mayoral candidate who reportedly topped the tabulation, alleged that Sayyadi initiated a "selective canvassing" of election results from precincts where Biruar had won and disregarded votes garnered by other candidates from the remaining 84 precincts.








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