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Brgy. polls peaceful in Bohol, Zambo City despite recent crises

(Updated 8:17 p.m.) An earthquake and super typhoon ensured that barangay elections in Bohol would end in the dark, as power had still not been restored after the two disasters.

But 7,000 rechargeable lamps provided by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), along with hundreds of tent precincts that replaced damaged school buildings, enabled the beleaguered province to conduct as smooth an election as could be expected from a devastated province.

The same was true in Zamboanga City, which saw several barangays burned to the ground during an attack by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in August.

Both areas had their barangay elections on November 25, almost a month after the rest of the country voted new village officials on October 28. But despite the recent setbacks, the conduct of the special polls went by smoothly, Comelec officials said.

“All the 2,599 clustered precincts opened exactly 7 a.m. So far, there [are] no reports of untoward incidents that transpired,” Comelec region 7 election supervisor Temie Lambino told GMA News Online by phone of the situation in Bohol, which was just reeling from the earthquake when it was hit by Tropical Depression Wilma and Typhoon Yolanda.

He said the Comelec has provided 7,000 rechargeable lamps for the canvassing of votes on Monday night, as power remains a problem after a major Leyte geothermal plant that supplies much of Bohol's electricity was damaged by Yolanda.

While some schools were damaged and could not be used for voting, Comelec has set up 300 tents as makeshift voting centers in addition to the 1,000 makeshift schools of the Department of Education, Lambino said.

He added that election paraphernalia were delivered on time to the precincts as major roads that were once impassable after the quake are now accessible.

Meanwhile, Comelec commissioner Grace Padaca said she has seen a thriving electoral scene in Zamboanga City, which was still heavily secured by state forces months after the three-week MNLF siege.

“Maraming bumoto. It's so nice that despite the trauma that they experienced during the siege, a lot of (voters) are here,” said Padaca by phone, as she was in the area monitoring the elections with Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and Commissioner Al Parreño.

Padaca said she was amused to see campaign materials pasted over bullet-ridden buildings in the city, once a venue of an independence stake by MNLF forces.

“The people can really come here (to vote). It has a  lot to do with the fact that the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines ensured the security... if ever mayroong harrassment,” she said.

Brillantes said displaced voters from four barangays most affected in the siege - Santa Barbara, Rio Hondo, Mariki, and Zone 4 - conducted their elections in the Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences.

The poll chief expects a 60 percent turn-out in Zamboanga city and 70 percent in Bohol.

He said the elections were peaceful, save for one incident in Barangay Santa Catalina in Zamboanga city where an election watcher and a candidate got into a fistfight.

The police had to fire warning shots to break the fight, Brillantes said.

"Pinakita ng populasyon ng Zamboanga city na maski guluhin mo sila, they will still exercise their democratic process," he said by phone.

There are 291 candidates for barangay chairpersons and 2,639 for village councilors in Zamboanga City, while at least 1,488 chairpersons and 10,929 councilor bets in Bohol, Comelec figures show.
A total of 412,661 registered voters in Zamboanga City and 799,089 in Bohol were expected to vote on Monday. — KBK, GMA News