Comelec tells poll watchers in Lanao Sur standoff: Submit sworn statements

Published May 16, 2022, 4:49 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) urged poll watchers of a mayoralty candidate in Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur on Monday, May 16, to make formal their accusations of election-related violence against members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Members of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Battalion secure vote counting machines, ballot boxes, and other election paraphernalia in a tense standoff with watchers and supporters of a local candidate in Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur on May 10, 2022. (Screenshot from video courtesy of 5th IB / MANILA BULLETIN)

The issue stemmed from the May 10 standoff between personnel of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Battalion (5IB) and poll watchers of candidate Lominog Lao Jr. at the municipal hall of Lumbatan.

The poll watchers of Lao surfaced on Monday and held a press conference to detail the alleged “violent attempt” of the soldiers to snatch the ballot box and two vote counting machines (VCMs) in Lumbatan after the May 9 elections.

They claimed they were only “protecting” the ballot boxes and VCMs from the the soldiers. Lao’s camp further stated that it will file a petition for the annulment of election result in the six barangays in Lumbatan due to failure of elections.

Comelec acting spokesperson Director John Rex Laudiangco said the poll body “welcomes” the revelation of Lao’s watchers even as he encouraged them to submit a sworn statement about the incident.

“We welcome these statements. Please, we encourage them to submit their statements and reports. In fact, we encourage them to have these statements made under oath para po makumpleto namin ‘yung picture (so we can complete the whole picture),” Laudiangco said in a media briefing.

Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesperson, previously denied reports that military personnel snatched the ballot boxes, VCMs, and other election paraphernalia in Lumbatan.

He said it was the election officer in Lumbatan, Marthyr Harry Sumalipao, who requested the military to retrieve the ballot box, VCMs, and other equipment since Lao’s poll watchers allegedly took control of the Lumbatan municipal hall where the said items were stored.

This statement was echoed by the Comelec mouthpiece.

“What is clear about it and what’s consistent with the statement of the AFP is that the election officer gave the order to the AFP to secure it [ballot box, VCMs, other election paraphernalia],” Laudiangco said.

“The matter is under investigation, it is continuing and live,” he added.