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EDITORIAL - Punish the offenders

In Maguindanao del Norte on election day yesterday, gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two voters who were about to enter the polling precinct set up in an elementary school in the capital town Datu Odin Sinsuat. Five other people were wounded in the attack, which police noted occurred following a commotion among supporters of rival candidates for barangay captain.

Elsewhere, the Commission on Elections said a provincial governor and 13 mayors in Luzon face investigation on complaints of vote-buying in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. The local executives are in addition to the hundreds of candidates facing possible disqualification by the Comelec on charges of vote-buying and other campaign offenses related to the BSKE.

The Comelec nevertheless was glad to report that yesterday’s vote had one of the highest turnouts for the BSKE. This was probably because voters felt deprived of their right of suffrage due to multiple unconstitutional postponements of the BSKE since 2016 chiefly for politicians’ partisan purposes. It was also probably because of heightened awareness of the role played by barangay officials in many aspects of life in this country. Setting up voting sites at shopping malls also helped boost public participation.

Authorities must do their best to catch not only the direct participants in the murders and poll violations – the gunmen and the vote buyers at the grassroots – but equally important, the financiers and others who stand to benefit from the offenses. Governors, mayors and other government officials involved in the offenses should be stripped of their positions and permanently disqualified from public office.

Days before election day, the Comelec had warned candidates that anyone with a pending election-related complaint who wins will not be allowed to assume the post. The Comelec should make sure this prohibition is fully enforced, even as it speeds up the process of resolving complaints. Because of the repeated BSKE postponements, the winners in yesterday’s vote will get to serve for only two years.

The high voter turnout yesterday may be seen as an expression of hope for change after the multiple term extensions. The