A day before the special elections
ILIGAN CITY, LANAO DEL NORTE–Another month, another out-of-town. Another election, albeit a repeated one.
The swift flutter of events in the 2010 elections failed to include towns in Lanao del Sur, Basilan and Sarangani. For reasons ranging from violence to technical failures, elections were deferred to tomorrow.
And so, we’re back in Mindanao, this time in Lanao.
They told us we wouldn’t stay longer than a week here. Should things go as planned, that is.
That the special elections in this region were originally scheduled for Friday last week already warns of unpredictability. More so that the recurring image of the last elections here is a precinct incident caught on cam by indie reporters.
The video serves as the attention-grabbing jump-off to Jeff Canoy‘s advancer story on the polls for TV Patrol (as edited by yours truly):
In this region, apparently anything can happen. The PCOS machine testing and sealing scheduled when we arrived here yesterday had to be postponed for this afternoon.
The Comelec also left nothing to chance by drafting police trainees to serve as board of election inspectors. Iligan-based ABS-CBN reporter Roxanne Arevalo interviewed Maranao teachers who were surprised, however, to find out only yesterday that their services were dropped.
Most of the municipalities repeating the vote are an hour or so from the province’s capital Marawi. But the results will be transmitted “manually.” Lanao del Sur’s information officer Nasser Ganda tells us the machines will be brought to the capitol and from there will send the votes to the canvassing center nearby.
Our team of 12 could only hope we are not caught in another crossfire tomorrow.
Like our previous assignment Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur is part of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao or ARMM, is one of the country’s poorest provinces, and is one fraught with tension.
We’ve set base up north here in Iligan, a 30-minute-to-one-hour drive from Marawi, just to be safe.
But to most people outside Mindanao, the area hasn’t gone beyond either image.
A friend from Davao reminds me that Marawi houses the region’s premiere center of learning, Mindanao State University. A little research would turn up that the city is arguably the Philippines’ Islamic capital and a potential tourist destination.
It’s an observation I might repeatedly make should I get reassigned to Mindanao in the future.
From our touchdown at the hill-perched Cagayan de Oro airport in Misamis Oriental and throughout our 4-hour drive to Iligan, I couldn’t help but notice amid catnaps how fittingly the island was called “Land of Promise.”
A promise in scenic beauty and resources marred by the lack of promise in how people choose their leaders and how these leaders treat them.
In just some hours from now, we’ll be driving through the zigzags and checkpoints to be the early witnesses to a take-two election. God keep us safe.