Ey . . . the 601st Inf Bde is back. 2 blasts scuttle SK vote canvass
By Nelson C. Bagaforo and Allen V. Estabillohttp://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/dav/2007/05/24/news/2.blasts.scuttle.sk.vote.canvass.html
TWO grenades simultaneously exploded inside the municipal hall compound in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, forcing the municipal board of canvassers to hastily abandon the town council's session hall where the canvassing of election returns was being held.
As of this writing Wednesday, members of the board of canvassers have yet to return their post to continue the official counting of votes.
Brigadier General Danilo Garcia, commander of 601st Infantry Brigade
, Wednesday said no one was hurt or killed in the simultaneous explosion of M-79 grenades, which occurred at about 9 p.m. in front of the town hall and at the back of gasoline station, a few meters away.
"It was fired from undetermined origin. This is politically-motivated. The perpetrators wanted to make a scenario. The identity of the perpetrators is still the subject of investigations," Garcia said.
The attacks, he said, only damaged the windshield of a motorcycle parked outside the municipal hall.
Superintendent Danilo Posadas, Isulan police chief, said the explosions eventually added more tension to the protest-marred canvassing of votes in the municipality.
He said the members of the board of canvassers immediately decided to stop the canvassing and leave the area due to concerns over their safety.
"We are still investigating the incident but we are looking at the possibility that this is politically-motivated," Posadas said.
On May 8, eight people were killed and 30 others were wounded in a bomb attack in nearby Tacurong City.
The attacks were blamed by military and police to Al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiyah.
Isulan Vice Mayor Alfonso Dimasuay, who is leading the mayoral race over three other candidates by a slim margin, said the explosions delayed anew his supposed proclamation Tuesday night.
He said at least seven election returns have yet to be canvassed by the board of canvassers when it decided to suspend again its proceedings.
As of Wednesday morning, Dimasuay, who ran under the opposition Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), said it was not clear when the municipal board of canvassers, the second set convened by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) since last week, would proceed with the canvassing.
He said there were reports that the members of the board of canvassers have confided to Comelec provincial supervisor Paisal Tanjili that they are no longer inclined to return to their posts because of the incident.
On Friday evening, the original members of the board of canvassers requested for their relief following a grenade explosion at the town's public market.
The Comelec also replaced election officer Mamorantao Capampangan with Malic Sansarona to head the municipal board of canvassers.
The Friday explosion came after the camp of Dimasuay raised objections during the canvassing after finding alleged tampering in several election returns from Barangay Lagandang.
"We found alterations in the returns, wherein my tally was shaved by at least 400 votes," Dimasuay said.
Despite the alleged vote-shaving, Dimasuay said he maintained a slim lead over closest rival Diosdado Palasigue of the administration-backed Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).
Since last week, hundreds of supporters of the two mayoral bets have been staging a vigil at the municipal hall grounds in a bid to protect the votes of their candidates and protest the alleged massive fraud in the area during the May 14 elections.
The Philippine National Police immediately deployed additional policemen from the regional mobile group to secure the canvassing area and quell the worsening tension brought about by the protests.