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Voting over in 2 hours? Only in Lanao!

May 20, 2007 4:59pm
Just how fraudulent was the conduct of elections in Lanao del Sur? To a congressional candidate, it’s one for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Former justice undersecretary and congressional candidate Makabangkit Lanto asked the Commission on Elections today to declare a failure of elections in the town of Picong (formerly Sultan Gumander) because, he said, no election was actually held there last May 14.

His proof: the polling precincts were already closed as early as early as 9 a.m., or just two hours after voting started at 7 a.m.

“There was no election to speak of," Lanto said in his petition. He sought to declare the results of the election in Picong as “invalid, illegal, and a sham."

Lanto is the congressional bet of President Arroyo’s party Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino in Lanao del Sur’s second district.

He said he was surprised to find out that most polling precincts were already closed as early as 9 a.m., “quite a feat for a town of 6,000 voters." Picong town has 5,628 registered voters.

He also told Newsbreak that he would file a similar petition to declare a failure of elections in Malabang town, which has a total 14,984 registered voters.

In his petition, Lanto accused the election officer, the former municipal treasurer and rival Pangalian Balindong of orchestrating the anomalous conduct of the election.

Balindong is candidate of the ruling party Lakas. He is also the brother of Picong re-electionist mayor Alinade Balindong. Former municipal treasurer Basher Maruhom is his first cousin. Since municipal treasurers serve as the custodian of election documents, Maruhom was temporarily replaced during the elections.

But Lanto said it was still Maruhom who supervised the distribution of election documents in the different precincts. Worse, Maruhom, “snatched and carried away" the election returns (ERs) before election day and reportedly went into hiding. Lanto said he complained to an election officer about the missing ERs but the said election officer also went missing afterwards.

Lanto also found out that the election documents were received not by the teachers who were supposed to act as election inspectors but by unauthorized civilians who are supporters of the Balindongs.

During the two hours that the polling precincts were opened, chaos reigned, Lanto said.

In most areas “people were allowed to vote as many names as they can find from the book of voters…even minors were allowed to vote assisted by barangay officials."

Unsurprisingly, he said, in the municipal canvass results, Pangalian and Alinade Balindong each received an identical 5,833 votes while Lanto and two other congressional candidates got zero.

Lanto said the results defied logic since he has many relatives and family members in Picong.

He said he also lost heavily in Malabang town, where another Balindong sibling is the incumbent mayor, Anwar Balindong. Lanto said he only got more than a thousand votes in Malabang as a “consolation."

He said the election in Malabang was over in just a few hours.

The Comelec has declared a failure of elections in at least 13 towns in Lanao del Sur. - Newsbreak