One of the critically wounded, Oboy Matalam, a former village chieftain of Batulawan, where the explosion occurred before 7 pm, is a cousin of Mr. Andong. The mosque’s imam was seriously wounded, said another Pikit resident, Sarah Matalam.
The Rev. Jonathan Domingo OMI, coordinator of Bantay Halalan 2010, an election watchdog ran by the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City, confirmed that the explosion took place and said his group has dispatched people to investigate.
Mr. Andong discounted the possibility that this could be related to the elections set tomorrow. “There were no politicians inside the mosque so I don’t think this was political,” he said. “Our elections here were always peaceful and clean so I’m surprised by this.”
He said the mosque was only 30 meters away from a military roadblock along the highway that connects Pikit town to this city.
Earlier today, five people were killed in separate election-related incidents in two other provinces of the Philippines.
Vote buying was also reported in several areas on Monday. On his way to Tugaig, a village in Barira town, also in Maguindanao, a candidate for town councilor stopped his pickup countless times to hand out money to people along the highway. Inside his untinted pickup, a person was holding a wad of money.
A girl in Tugaig, Barira town, shows the stub that was allegedly given to a friend after the friend voted. She said her friend could turn over the stub to the politician who bought his vote, in exchange for 2,500 pesos. (Photo by Carlos H. Conde / bulatlat.com)
The councilor went straight to the Ibra Bulyog Elementary School, where some voters complained that money was being given out in the lines to the precincts.
Ozlem Macarimbong, 15, a daughter of a candidate for mayor of Barira, complained that men from a party opposed to her mother’s was buying votes for as much as 2,500 pesos. She said men from this party would distribute sample ballots marked with the candidates they should vote
for. After casting his ballot, the voter would be given an orange stub which he would then used to collect his money.
On Sunday, a curious sight unfolded in Datu Unsay, also in Maguindanao: dozens of people, nearly all of them men and perhaps more than a hundred, standing, squatting inside what is supposed to be a public market and passenger terminal in this town. There were never any shops or stalls or vehicles here and there were none on Sunday. It was curious because it was not clear what the men were doing. It was as though they were waiting for someone, or something.
“Tomorrow is election day. Couldn’t you guess what they were doing?” said Soy Kali, 30, a jobless driver who lives a few hundred meters from the market. He said on the eve of the election, men like those often huddle in places like the market, hoping for a politician to
drop by and give out cash.
As the Philippines hurtled into its first fully automated election on Monday, scenes like surely played out across the archipelago, where reports of vote buying in other areas where also monitored.
“It’s a normal practice in Maguindanao and in the other provinces here,” said Father Jonathan Domingo OMI, a priest who is the coordinator of an election watchdog called Bantay Halalan (Election Watch) that monitors the conduct of the polls in nearby Cotabato City, Maguindanao province and other areas of the Autononous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Around this time, he said in an interview, “it is usually very calm. That is because the candidates are carrying out massive vote buying, paying voters from 300 pesos upward.”
Father Domingo said it has become part of the culture and politics here. “Because life is difficult, voters tend to sell their votes to the highest bidder, especially in Maguindanao.” (Bulatlat.com)