In ComVal, ‘kamang’ rules as military turns partisan

May. 23, 2007

Apart from the vote buying and harassments by candidates and their henchmen, the heavy presence of the military dominated Compostela Valley before and during the elections. The soldiers were supposedly sent to the province to augment the police and keep the peace but, according to officials and residents– several of them were directly involved in incidents of intimidating or harassing voters and vilifying partylist groups.

By Cheryll D. Fiel
Davao Today

COMPOSTELA VALLEY — Elizabeth Moanes hardly slept on the night of May 13, the eve of last week’s elections. That night, she said, the noise coming from motorcycles passing the bridge near her house in Pantukan, a sleepy town in this province, seemed endless.

But Moanes expected the noise. A retired school teacher, she had known long ago that elections in most part of this poverty-stricken province are over even before they could begin.

The day before Election Day, she said, is usually the time when candidates unleash all that they have to ensure victory the next day. This means lots of money being dangled to voters. This, Moanes said, is called “kinamangay,” which is from the Visayan word “kamang,” or crawl. In the context of elections, it “kinamangay” means that candidates pull out all the stops to make sure that the votes are theirs. This often takes the form of vote buying.

Talk in Moaness neighborhood that night had it that the drivers of “habal-habal,” or passenger motorcycles that are the common mode of transportation in hinterland villages in many parts of the Philippines, were specifically recruited as liners or team leaders in these last-minute operations to buy votes.

Each of these drivers were said to have been given a quota of 10 votes to buy. The payment for these drivers were either in cash or purchase orders for a full tank of gasoline.

Village chiefs, or “barangay captains,” as well as supervisors in the banana packaging plants that abound in this province, were also contracted for the operations, according to several residents interviewed. These supervisors command considerable clout here.

Compostela Valley is one of the 49 provinces in the country declared by the Commission on Elections as “areas of immediate concern.” Region-wide, it had the highest number of augmentation troops — more than 1,400 — sent in by the Comelec to augment the police.

But despite the deployment, and despite the fact that the province was already crawling with troops even before the elections, violent incidents continued.

In Kingking, a village in Pantukan, on election eve, men wearing bonnets appeared in the dead of night in the home of Cirilo Canale, in Upper Pangasinan. According to Pantukan mayor Juan Cipriano Sarenas, the armed men left but not before pointing their guns at the wife and children of Canale, who was a supporter of the reelectionist mayor.

In New Bataan, another municipality here, Mercy Bonsolto and two of her companions survived an ambush in the early hours of on Election Day. Bonsolto, a campaign coordinator of mayoralty candidate Sheila Cualing Soriano, was on her way to reports of alleged vote buying when armed men on motorcycles shot their car in barangay Magsaysay. Bonsolto recalled seeing eight motorcycles and a small Jeepney driven by a known police bodyguard of the incumbent mayor.

Meanwhile, the canvassing of votes in New Bataan had to be stopped several times for security reasons, notwithstanding the fact that two military armored personnel carriers had already been stationed at the vicinity of the municipal hall where the canvassing was conducted.

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