COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Officials were satisfied with the outcome of Saturday’s “mock elections” in Maguindanao, but they want more stringent precautions against sabotage and other possible technical constraints during the actual election day this coming May.



Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairman of the provincial peace and order council, told reporters Monday that one concern the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should focus on is the “ready availability” of power generation sets, emergency lamps and communication facilities to ensure a smooth conduct of the May electoral exercise in far-flung areas in the province.


Mangudadatu gave the mock elections held in Buluan town a passing grade of 8 from a scale of 1 to 10.


The governor recommended that the Comelec should relax its earlier order, setting a 50-meter distance of soldiers and policemen performing election security missions from polling sites.


“It should be a little closer for them to easily detect possible cheating and intimidation of voters during the day of the elections,” Mangudadatu said.


Maguindanao’s election supervisor, lawyer Udtog Tago, said he is grateful to the cooperation of the police, the military, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), and the local government units with Saturday’s mock elections the province.

Tago said the conduct of the voting process was "very successful," including the transmission of poll results from the polling sites, to the municipal board of canvassers (MBOC) upward.


Tago said there was, however, a problem in the transmission process in one barangay due to power outage.


“Remedy was made by bringing the counting machine to the MBOC. In all, the automated counting turned to be reliable, free from any human interventions or undue manipulations. We are thankful to the provincial government of Maguindanao for supporting the conduct of the exercise,” Tago said.


Mangudadatu, who was one of the voters who participated in the mock elections in his hometown in Buluan, said there is also a need for a continuing information campaign aimed at educating voters on how the precinct count optical scan machines really work.


“I myself tried to spoil my ballot by voting for two candidates for one elective post to test how the machine can detect such a problem. The machine accepted and processed the ballot. There is a need to educate the public on how it works to erase speculations on its efficiency. I'm not saying the machines are defective, or unsafe. Just saying we in Maguindanao wants our people to really understand how they work,” Mangudadatu said.


Tago said all of the observations by local officials, the PPCRV, the police and the military, and their recommendations on how to improve the conduct of elections in Maguindanao in May 2013 are now being documented for submission to the central office of the Comelec.


Meantime, Tago said they have recommended the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex inside the 32-hectare compound here of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a good, safe venue for the provincial canvassing of election results from Maguindanao.


“I hope we can convince all candidates to agree to that,” Tago said.


Mangudadatu, who is provincial chairman for Maguindanao of the Liberal Party, said he is not opposed to Tago’s proposal.


“It can be held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex, or at (the Army’s) Camp Siongco. I have no objection, whatsoever,” Mangudadatu said.


Camp Siongco, located near the Awang Airport in Maguindanao, is the command center of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over all of Maguindanao’s 36 towns and the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, both under Administrative Region.


Apart from Maguindanao, which is a component province of ARMM, mock elections were also held in two areas in Bongao, capital town of Tawi-Tawi, also in the autonomous region.