BSKE voting now closed, but several incidents reported

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) – Some towns around the country have already begun proclaiming newly-elected officials, following the conclusion of Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) voting on Monday.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said the election was generally peaceful even as pockets of violence marred the polls.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte voted for the next set of barangay and youth officials in their respective hometowns.

Canvassing began immediately after voting ended at 3 p.m. Comelec Chairman George Garcia said the Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi was the first to begin vote counting, while the first proclamations of barangay-level officials took place in Aurora province.

He said in a briefing after the polls ended that 245 BSKE candidates will not be proclaimed even if they win because they have pending disqualification cases, adding that just under 100 candidates have already been disqualified and that more are expected in the coming days.

Though the Comelec said the opening of the polling precincts and the first hour of voting were generally peaceful, there were reports of trouble around the country.

In Puerto Princesa, Palawan, voting in two precincts resumed following a brief suspension after supporters of a politician entered the polling areas and destroyed unused ballots. Local authorities said no one was hurt and there was no failure of elections.

An hour before voting began in Maguindanao Del Norte, police said a shooting broke out in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, leaving two dead and four wounded. Four suspects remain at-large.

In total, police said that five were killed and 11 were wounded following six shooting incidents recorded across the Bangsamoro region.

Throughout Bangsamoro, the Comelec said 2,500 BSKE volunteers withdrew from assisting in the elections and were replaced instead by police officers trained for poll duties.

The Comelec also reported two faulty vote-counting machines in Dasmariñas, Cavite which encountered paper jams and overheating.

Meanwhile, the elections in Metro Manila were peaceful as authorities only recorded four cases of vote buying and three liquor ban violations, Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Police Office Regional Director PB/Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. said.

From 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., persons with disability, senior citizens, and heavily pregnant women were allowed to cast their vote early but only in Muntinlupa City and Naga City, confusing other voters and prompting calls for a new special voting schedule.

READ: Comelec: Massive turnout of seniors, PWD calls for new law on special voting schedule  

Garcia asked for patience as this was a pilot run, but assured the public that the issues encountered on Monday will be resolved once they roll out the same policy at the national level.

Over 31,000 persons deprived of liberty also cast their votes, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said. Inmates voted in special polling precincts established by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. Some were also escorted by authorities to their respective voting precincts.

Voter turnout is expected to reach as high as 80% because of the Undas holidays, higher than the previous record of 70% in the last 2013 and 2018 BSKEs, Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco earlier said.

Pre-election concerns  

Because Oct. 30 was declared a holiday for the BSKEs followed by the Undas break, transport agencies began close monitoring of the volume of travelers. Days before the polls, tens of thousands flocked to transport hubs around the country.

In Metro Manila, railways will operate at regular hours, while the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority allowed provincial buses on EDSA even after the polls to ease out-of-town travel during the Undas holiday.

A gun ban for the election period that began on Aug. 28 will remain until Nov. 29.

Police and military deployed thousands of troops to secure the elections, particularly in 361 barangays classified as election hotspots – areas with occurrences of election-related incidents, security threats by armed groups, or areas declared under Comelec control.

Around 70% of these were in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), police said.

Mass candidate withdrawals, vote buying, and violence have been reported in the lead up to the Oct. 30 polls.

The elections were supposed to take place in December 2022. However, in October last year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. signed into law a bill moving the polls to October 2023.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the BSKE postponement was unconstitutional, arguing that the power to postpone elections on a nationwide basis rested only with the Congress, not the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and that the law infringed on freedom of suffrage.

On Oct. 24, the high court rejected with finality the Office of the Solicitor General’s motion to reconsider its ruling declaring the BSKE postponement law unconstitutional. However, the SC said that the polls should still continue as planned.

The last BSKE was five years ago.