MANILA, Philippines — The conduct of mid-term national and local elections in Palawan’s Kalayaan island town in the hotly-contested Spratlys archipelago is over in a matter of six hours — the fastest electoral exercise ever recorded so far in the country's election history.
1Lt. Cherryl Tindog, Western Command (Wescom) spokesperson, said voting in the island town exactly started at about 7 a.m. and ended 1 p.m. with all 288 registered voters having exercised their sacred right to vote.
“The polls in the island started as scheduled and has remained peaceful to date. The provincial Comelec announced earlier that the election in Kalayaan is expected to finish earlier than the rest of the province,” Tindog said.
Election paraphernalia were flown to the island before the May 13 elections and registered voters who are based at the Kalayaan's satellite office in Puerto Princesa flew home to cast their votes on Sunday.
Tindog added that they’re still awaiting results as to the winner in the three-cornered political contest for the mayoralty post in the island town.
Aside from incumbent Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, Puerto Princesa City-based businessman Noel Osorio and Rosendo Mantes, a retired military, are also eyeing to become mayor of the island town located in the middle of territorial conflict among Spratlys-claimant countries such as China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
While the voting was fast, there were also reports of vote-buying, with one candidate reportedly offering P5,000 to the islanders for every cast to his name.
“Napakalaki ang bilihan ng boto. Mukhang mananalo itong kandidatong ito dahil wala namang pera ang mga kalaban niya,” a Palawan-based source who declined to be named earlier told The STAR.
The Kalayaan Island town, whose seat of government is located in Pag-Asa Island, is composed of the country’s regime of seven islands and two reefs in the hotly-contested region.
Formerly a military garrison of Filipino troops until it was slowly converted into a civilian community, Kalayaan town in Pag-Asa island continues to host soldiers who are on forward deployment in the area to protect and defend the country's sovereign rights over other claimant countries.