Manila: More than 20 people were killed and almost 30 wounded in village polls that elected 42,028 village heads and almost 300,000 councillors nationwide.
Officials said more than 94,124 candidates vied for 42,028 village chief posts and 715,012 for 300,000 seats for councillors on Monday. There was a 75 per cent turnout.
“Election fever, even on a village level, is always intense in the Philippines,” said Claro de Jesus, who voted early in a public elementary school in Teachers’ Village in suburban Quezon City.
Meanwhile, armed men barged into polling centres and snatched a ballot box in San Antonio Elementary School in Catubig, northern Samar, central Philippines, on Sunday night, said a spokesperson of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) regional office. Teachers were allowed to use an improvised ballot box at the Catubig school’s voting precinct on Monday, said the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The police placed northern Samar’s 147 out of 569 villages under a watchlist of areas where election-related incidents were likely to occur.
There were also problems in Maguindanao in the southern Philippines, Comelec said, while voting did not go ahead in nine villages in Buldon, Maguindanao. The date for another election will be announced later.
There were also no elections in 13 villages in Pikit, north Cotabato, also in the south.
Earlier, teachers refused to serve as polling officers, prompting Comelec to deploy policemen at the voting precincts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), while representatives of rival candidates scuffled at schools in Isla Punting Bato, at Manila’s Tondo district, a depressed area, TV footage showed.
“Relatives of candidates insisted to count ballots, which is against the policy of Comelec,” said Alma Laquian, of the Rosauro Almario Elementary School in Tondo.
Voters complained that Comelec was using manual voting after using electronic voting in 2009.
After the elections, chaos prevailed. Poll officers left piles of rubbish at schools where the elections were held and environmentalists complained that candidates have not removed billboards that they posted on walls and trees.
“Is corruption possible in the village level of government?” asked Pastor Alfredo Crespo, adding that the brand of democracy in the Philippines can be discerned by the way elections are held. “I wonder why the rivalry is so intense.”
A village chief has a low monthly honorarium of Php23,000 (Dh1,916) and councillors Php17,000. However, fringe benefits are high. sources said, and chiefs have enormous power, including being able to decide where to spend the village’s total yearly share of Php59,165,520,377 in Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), according to sources.
In a rough estimate, a village has a yearly IRA allotment of Php1.407 million, but in some places, a village has double that amount, sources said, adding that the total money assigned to a particular village could balloon to a hundred million a year, with additional funds coming from its share of real estate and business taxes collected by its local government unit.
Although a village council approves his decision, in most cases, council members never disagree with the village head.
Village chiefs are also vulnerable to temptations offered by illegal vendors and informal settlers, whose homes are often subjected to threats of demolition, illegal gambling lords and illegal loggers, sources said.