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Barangay elections in Zamboanga City may be deferred – poll officials

September 18, 2013 2:23pm

Burned schools and polling centers may force the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to postpone the October barangay elections in crisis-stricken Zamboanga City, poll officials said Wednesday.

"We may have to postpone elections there if it's impossible to conduct in certain areas or barangay," said Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim at a press briefing in Manila.

The armed conflict in the southern Philippine city reached its tenth day Wednesday with the military conducting clearing operations on villages that have been occupied by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.

The barangay elections are scheduled on October 28, or over a month since the Zamboanga crisis started on September 9.

Lim, head of the steering committee for the barangay election, said they have been receiving reports of schools and voting centers burned following sporadic clashes between government forces and the MNLF rebels. He said the postponement will depend on the cost of damage from the conflict.

Commissioner Grace Padaca, committee vice chairperson, said the worst-hit villages that may be affected by the postponement are Mariki, Rio Hondo, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, Talon Talon, Kasanyangan, Arena Blanco, Mampang and Tugbungan.

"Schools and voting centers have been burned. Voters have been displaced. These are the factors na iko-consider sa decision on the barangay elections in those areas," Padaca said.

She also said their election officers could not report to work since their office is located in an evacuation center in Arena Blanco, and that their district officer could not return from Basilan due to the conflict.

"Even if the situation will end soon, mayroon na tayong mga kailangang i-consider in the affected barangays," Padaca said.

Lim expects that a final decision will be reached after a command conference with the Philippine National Police next week.

As of Wednesday morning, the Comelec has printed over 25.9 million ballots, or 48 percent of the total 54 million that will be used for the barangay election. Of this number, some 23.9 million have been "sheeted and cut."

Around 54 million voters are expected to vote in the barangay polls, while only 3.2 million for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election, which may also be postponed depending on Congress deliberations.

The Comelec has set aside 170,603 clustered precincts for the barangay polls and 45,775 for the SK elections. There are 42,028 barangays in 80 provinces across the country.  — KBK, GMA News
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