BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Vol. VII, No. 18, June 10-16, 2007
MANILA — It appears that not only opposition senatorial candidates and progressive party-list groups were the victims of electoral fraud and violence in the ARMM. Even Nur Misuari, founder and leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which is strongest in Sulu, Jolo, and Tawi-Tawi, was victimized, said his supporters.
Ustadz Zain Jali, chairman of the Bangsamnoro People’s National Congress (BPNC), confirmed in an interview with Bulatlat the reports that some 2,000 MNLF fighters were unable to vote on May 14.
“We weren’t able to vote,” Jali said. “How can we vote? We are accused of being ‘terrorists,’ we are fighting government (troops). How can we go to the precincts? We would be arrested by soldiers.”
Not only that: based on data from the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) in Sulu, the thousands of families that were displaced from the towns of Panamao, Kalinggalang Caluang, Panglima Estino, Tongkil and Indanan, amid the wave of fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MNLF that has been shaking the province since mid-February this year, were still in the evacuation centers when the elections were held. This resulted in a very low voter turnout.
Misuari is known to have many supporters in the towns affected by the fighting and evacuations, other sources from Sulu told Bulatlat.
The MNLF had earlier called for a declaration of a failure of elections in Sulu. In earlier media interviews, Jali lambasted the government for not resolving the Sulu crisis before allowing elections to proceed in the province.
“Farcical and fake” polls
Aside from these, Jali also blames Misuari’s loss on what he described as the “farcical and fake” character of the elections that transpired in Sulu.
“In Sulu, the voting took place even before the voting could begin,” Jali told Bulatlat in an interview. “By the time the voters started arriving at the polling places, there were no more ballots. The ballots were already in the houses of the mayors.”
Jali’s revelation jives with what lawyer Raissa Jajurie, a volunteer for the poll monitoring group Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente) assigned to Sulu, reported in an account recently published in Mindanews.
Jajurie reported seeing, in one school, members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) writing on ballots which had already been thumbmarked. They were writing the names of the same candidates on each of the ballots, Jajurie said.
In another school in the same town, Jajurie reported seeing people “assisting” the voters as they filled up the ballots.
Jajurie also reported having obtained information that the same thing was being done in other towns in Sulu.
In the end, businessman Abdul Sakur Tan of Lakas-CMD – which is part of the administration coalition Team Unity – emerged as the winner of Sulu’s gubernatorial race.
Aside from Tan, Misuari’s other opponent was former Sulu Gov. Benjamin Loong – who is with the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s political party.
Based on the final canvass by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Tan got 84,434 votes, Loong got 53,096 and Misuari got only 19,121.
Sulu is one of the ARMM provinces reported to have delivered a 12-0 victory for Team Unity senatorial candidates Prospero Pichay, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Mike Defensor, Jamalul Kiram, Cesar Montano, Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Teresa Aquino-Oreta, Ralph Recto, Joker Arroyo, Luis “Chavit” Singson, Edgardo Angara, and Vicente Magsaysay.
The said province has a total of 251,223 voters, based on data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) regional office in the ARMM. This number is statistically enough to affect the 11th and 12th slots in the senatorial race.
Sulu has been sporadically shaken by fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the MNLF since 2001.
Sulu, the Philippines’ southernmost province, is one of the four original provinces covered by the ARMM; the others are Basilan, Maguindanao, and Tawi-Tawi. The province of Shariff Kabunsuan was later carved out of Maguindanao, while Lanao del Sur and the Islamic City of Marawi were added to the region’s coverage.2007 Elections, Poverty