Lawyer seeks delay of special polls in Sulu town due to threats

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A lawyer of Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino is asking the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to postpone the special polls in Pata, Sulu on Saturday allegedly because of an ongoing gunfight in the area.

Barangay Kayawan in Pata, Sulu is one of the areas that had a failure of elections last May 9.

In a letter submitted Friday, Atty. Vicente Bonaobra II, counsel of mayoralty candidate Alrasdy Sarapuddin, said around 100 armed men allegedly part of incumbent Mayor Anton Burahan's private army, arrived in Barangay Kayawan and initiated a gunfight a day before election day.

Bonaobra said the voters of the said barangay "defended themselves which triggered the exchanges of gunfires, on massive scale, killing and wounding several still unidentified citizens/voters of said place."

He also alleged that Burahan harassed the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) assigned in Kayawan, causing their absence on election day.

Burahan also allegedly opposed the appointment of Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel as replacement for the absent BEIs.

Although their camp understands the need to finish the elections, Bonaobra appealed to delay the casting of votes until the safety of the voters, candidates and their lawyers are ensured.

He said members of the Badjao community already left the area on May 10 to avoid getting hurt.

"Unbeknownst to us, while we were trying to resolve the impasse involving the elections in Barangay Kayawan, the gun fighting between the two camps is also ongoing," Bonaobra said in the letter.

"This concern is being aired because we personally experienced the extreme danger that the situation in Pata, Sulu has brought upon us, upon the residents and voters threat especially the women and children residing there at."