COMELEC admits SK voters hoarding scandal in Agusan difficult to probe

by Ben Serrano

      October 24, 2010


            BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte - Two top Commission On Elections officials of the province of Agusan del Norte admitted in an interview this morning some sort of difficulty in probing alleged SK registered voters hoarding or hiding complaint by two municipal councilors here against an SK chair in Barangay Poblacion 2 here.


            Agusan del Norte Provincial COMELEC officer Atty. Roland Edayan told this writer it should have been the parents of the twenty seven or so SK registered voters now housed at a beach resort in Carmen town some 15 kilometers away from this town that should complained that their sons or daughters were hidden.


            Edayan explained under Ominbus Election Law no one can forced, coerced or forcibly urged any registered voters to favor, support, forcibly hide, housed in certain area much more vote a certain candidate or group of candidates.


            “However the case would be debatable if the voters themselves voluntarily joined the candidate to go for a picnic, party or whatever in a certain area or place much more if a written consent is sign by the voters or in case minors are involved like the SKs by parents”. Edayan said.


            Edayan also said it is very difficult to probe on who pays the lodging house, hotels, beach resorts or any venue the group went together saying that while election laws only allow candidates for SK and Barangay elections to spend P3 per voter, it is very difficult when all of then at the group would say they contributed for the get together gathering.


            When asked if Fair Elections Act would apply since it is disadvantageous to other bets who were not able to invite as many as registered voters as he or she could to a three day get together, Edayan said again the issue is debatable.


            Buenavista, Agusan del Norte Acting Municipal COMELEC officer Abelardo Saco on the other hand share same observations with Edayan. Saco who is a graduate of law but not full pledge lawyer told this writer he will conduct investigation on the complaints of alleged hoarding of some 40 registered voters in Barangay Poblacion this town.


            Saco said he already wrote letter to all involved or concerns to submit their explanations about the incident


            “I wrote SK Chair bet Ximatrix Atazan to submit his explanation as soon as possible” Saco told this writer in an interview..


            The two COMELEC officials however admitted similar incidents have been reported in almost all parts of the province if not in the whole Caraga Region particularly in Buenavista town where there are total 25 barangays.


            “But only the Barangay Poblacion 2 alleged hoarding incident came prominent because official sworn complaint reached the COMELEC office”, the two COMELEC officials said.


            This developed after two Buenavista municipal councilors filed complaint before Municipal Comelec Office here last Friday afternoon that an SK Chair bet were allegedly hiding 40 out of total 67 registered SK voters of Barangay 2 here.


            In a one page duly-sworn complaint furnished to this writer, Buenavista town councilors Maria Victoria Nakila and Eduardo Makiling alleged that SK bet Ximatrix Atazan, 17, who is running for SK Chairman in Barangay 2 brought or hide for safekeeping teenage voters at beach resort Carmen Viranda II in seaside Barangay Rojales, Carmen, Agusan del Norte some 10 kilometers away from this town.


            The complaint affidavit stated that municipal councilor Nakila happened to talk to Carmen Veranda II Beach Resort and Restaurant worker Michele Cacho which confirmed presence of teenagers at the resort with booking or reservations to stay for three days that will end up October 25, 2010. the day of where said SK voters will cast their votes.


            Nakila even took photos of the teenage voters she alleged being hidden by the SK bet.


            Both Buenavista town councilors Nakila and Makiling asked acting Buenavista Municipal COMELEC officer Abelardo Saco to disqualify Atazan complaining there is an intention of Atazan to gather young voters and released them on the day of election and directly bring said young voters they allegedly hoarded on the polling precints.


            Nakila and Makiling complained such act is electioneering, a culpable violation of the Ominbus Election Code.


            Nakila’s daughter Michelle, 17 is running for SK chair also in same barangay while Municipal Councilor Eduardo Makiling’s son Randy, 17 is also running for SK Chairman in same barangay.


            But Ximatrix Atazan, 17, in an interview at beach resort Carmen Viranda II in Barangay Rojales, Carmen, Agusan del Norte Saturday evening denied accusations of the two municipal councilors saying all of the 27 SK registered voters he brought to the beach resort voluntarily joined him.


            Atazan’s father, Engineer Martin Atazan, a contractor of the Municipal Building of Buenavista told this writer parents of the 27 SK registered voters signed and issued notarized parents’ consents allowing their daughters and sons to join his son.


            Atazan described the Carmen Veranda II get together of SK voters as “bonding moments”.


            Atazan claimed the two municipal councilors complaint were baseless and unfounded.


            “They are just sourgraping and why only us when almost all SK candidates in Buenavista were also bringing other SK voters to other areas even as far as Camiguin Island and some even in Cagayan de Oro City which are already far?”, Engineer Atazan told this writer in an interview.


Parents of some SK registered voters who were present at the Carmen Veranda II Beach Resort during the interview also expressed disappointment with the two municipal councilors saying the two councilors were just sourgraping of not getting their sons and daughters support.


They including SK bet Atazan and his Engineer father admitted said SK voters and the group will stay at the beach resort up to Monday October 25 to prolong their bonding moments they claimed. (-30-)