Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blasts aim to disrupt Armm voters' registration

KIDAPAWAN CITY -- The grenade attacks that killed a seven-year-old girl and wounded another in Maguindanao aimed to disrupt registration of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), authorities said. A shoulder-fire 40 mm grenade projectile landed about a kilometer away from the registration center in Barangay Labo-Labo in Datu Hofer town on Monday. No one was reported hurt during the attack but it sent villagers, many of them registrants, into panic. The incident came after a fragmentation grenade went off in Barangay Timbangan in Shariff Aguak that killed on the spot seven-year-old Agatha Sakal Pangalian. Two men riding a motorcycle hurled a grenade at a multi-purpose hall at the center of Barangay Timbangan. Pangalian was with her mother Samera Pangalian who was wounded during the attack. Major General Rey Ardo, commander of the 6th Infantry Division (6th ID), said they already mobilized intelligence agents to help police track the culprits. Lieutenant Colonel Prudencio Asto, chief of the public affairs unit of the 6th ID, said the blasts could be retaliation of groups after their plan to bring in residents outside Maguindanao to register for the May 2013 elections was deterred by military and police. Mayor Joselito Pinol of M'lang, North Cotabato intercepted truckloads of voters, allegedly coming from his own village, being “transported” to a town in Maguindanao to register for the May 2013 elections. The trucks were stopped along the highway in Buluan, the capital town of Maguindanao, Pinol said. "It was Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu who called and informed me that they were able to stop truckloads of residents coming from Barangay Dungguan from proceeding to Maguindanao towns. Immediately, I sent at least 137 residents back to their own homes," Pinol said. Each resident was offered P300 to P400 to register in Datu Unsay town, the town official said. Asto said since the start of the 10-day list-up, the 6th ID has assigned several mechanized units in Maguindanao to stop "flying registrants" from getting close to the registration centers. Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc, sectoral representative for women in the Regional Legislative Assembly-Armm, called this "hakot system" as "election tourism" where people are transported to areas to register in exchange of an amount. "We annulled the old voters' list of about 1.7 million. But we did not annul the old corrupt ways of the politicians who use money and influence to manipulate people and harass those who would get in the way," Gutoc said. Despite the fraud, she said there is a still positive thing about Armm voters' list-up. "The old voters' list was reduced to at least 30 percent. This is one good thing," she said. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)