A day before the national and local elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cotabato City began distributing vote-counting machines (VCM) in over a hundred clustered precincts.
Military personnel retrieved the VCMs past 8 a.m. on Sunday, which are set to be delivered in various polling precincts across the city for final testing and sealing.
Police Brig. Gen. Paul Labra said the movement was upon the approval of Comelec, as agreed during a meeting this morning between parties involved.
Labra added that police would be serving as the electoral board on Monday's polls in the city following tensions that occured Saturday night at the Comelec office.
The Comelec has set May 2 until May 7, 2022, as the schedule for the final testing and sealing of VCMs.
But changes made in the list of teachers who will serve as members of the electoral board since Thursday brought confusion and disagreements.
Naguib Sinarimbo, minister of the Bangsamoro Ministry of Interior and Local Government, said the distribution of VCMs did not push through on Saturday afternoon because the police and military allegedly refused to escort teachers going to the polling centers for final testing and sealing.
Sinarimbo said they also received reports that the VCMs would be brought out of the Comelec office in the evening, despite their opposition due to security concerns.
The disagreement prompted the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), of which Sinarimbo is secretary-general, to troop to the Bangsamoro Government Center. Its members gathered a few meters away from the Comelec office.
The tensions went high when a white SUV driven by an unidentified person parked in front of the COMELEC office.
Authorities reportedly beat up two unidentified civilians who appeared near the Comelec office while unknown individuals threw stones at the white SUV.
Members of the police and military immediately closed the entrance of the Comelec office. At the same time, teachers and other individuals scampered to the nearest buildings, particularly at the MBHTE compound, just in front of the city's Comelec office.
After more than 15 hours of waiting, the newly assigned election officer of Cotabato City, Nasroding Mustapha, decided to postpone the distribution of VCMs, and told the teachers to go home.
Past 10 in the evening, the teachers safely headed out of the Comelec office and outside of the BGC compound and went home.
Mustapha assumed his post on Friday, replacing Atty. Maadz Ali as election officer.
Cotabato City has 120,221 registered voters for the May 9 polls.
— Report from Lerio Bompat