Outgoing Provincial Board (PB) Member Jade Bautista who lost in the Garcia Hernandez mayoral race raised concern over some voters who were reassigned to new voting precincts on Election Day due to lack of ballots.
Bautista, in a privilege speech during the PB’s regular session on Tuesday, said some voters in Garcia Hernandez were directed to vote in other precincts and were allowed to cast their ballots until 10 p.m., three hours after voting centers were supposed to close.
She alleged that the voters were accompanied by barangay officials on their way to their new designated polling center.
“What’s worse was they were escorted by some barangay officials all the way inside the polling precincts. This is blatant abuse of authority. Public officials should not be seen within the vicinity of the polling place except when exercising their right to vote,” Bautista said.
Garcia Hernandez election officer Paul Bentulan confirmed the precinct reassignment but noted that this was ordered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to the lack of ballots in Barangay Sacaon.
As early as 12 p.m. on Election Day, precincts in Barangay Sacaon already ran out of ballots.
“Diha miy directive na gihatag sa region na mao niy buhaton kay wa may lain balota na available except diri sa mga nearby barangays,” said Bentulan.
Voting precincts had no way of knowing that they have insufficient ballots as these were sealed and were only opened on Election Day.
Bentulan added that camps of both candidates, Bautista and Jess Baja, were informed of the Comelec’s directive immediately after this was issued.
According to Bentulan, 252 out of 491 registered voters in Barangay Sacaon were affected and were told to cast their votes instead in voting precincts in other villages.
However, the Comelec had to wait for polling centers to officially close to find out which have extra ballots prompting them to receive the Sacaon residents’ votes beyond 7 p.m.
The Sacaon residents were directed to cast their votes in 10 other designated precincts in the villages of Basiao, Candulao, Calma, East Canayon, West Canayon, Manaba, Poblacion East and West Ulbajan.
Bentulan said they waited for the Sacaon residents until around 10 p.m.
“Dili man ta ka check sa balota og di mo abot o alas 7 kay ang voting sa ubang barangays mao pa may paghuman. So di gyud ta mahibaw kung pilay nahibilin na balota,” said Bentulan.
Bentulan added that only 116 of the 252 affected voters in Barangay Sacaon returned to cast their votes.
Meanwhile, Bentulan said he has not received reports on Sacaon voters being accompanied by barangay officials on their way to their new polling centers as alleged by Bautista.
“Wa ko kaila anang mga barangay officials. I don’t know. Wa man puy niingon nako na mga maestra na naay nanguban,” he added.
Bautista who garnered 6,797 votes trailed Baja by 451 votes.
In her speech, Bautista said she had accepted her defeat but urged others who observed irregularities in the polls to report these to national authorities. (RT)