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2 Mindanao schools burned ahead of BSKE

Vito Barcelo & Maricel Cruz

Two elementary schools in Mindanao that were to be used as polling precincts for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) were burned down, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reported Saturday.

This was as Comelec Chairman George Garcia urged the public to prepare for the election day on Monday by knowing their precinct number and voting center where they will cast their votes.

Garcia advised voters to bring their voter’s identification card or any valid ID to avoid hassles, as voting will start at 7 a.m. and cut off at 3 p.m.

He reminded all BSKE candidates that campaigning is no longer allowed today after the campaign period ended midnight of Saturday. Giving and accepting free transportation, food, drinks and things of value, and using the voter’s affidavit of another for the purpose of voting is likewise disallowed.

Ruminimbang Elementary School in Barangay Ruminimbang, Barira, Maguindanao del Norte was set ablaze at about 1:50 a.m. No casualties were reported, Garcia said.

Meanwhile, the Poona Piagapo Central Elementary School, Old Poblacion in Poona Piagapo, Lanao Del Norte also caught fire at around 2 a.m.

The fire resulted in the “complete destruction” of one of the school’s classrooms. However, the actual voting center that would be used in the BSKE was unaffected, said Garcia.

The cause of the fires and the extent of the damages remain under investigation.

“The election is close, and the schools will serve as polling precincts. The fire from two schools is really suspicious. We condemn this if it is a deliberate, intentional, incident. At the same time, if someone needs to be arrested, we will urge authorities to arrest them immediately,” he said.

According to Garcia, the areas were under yellow category, or with reported suspected election-related incidents in the last two polls but no participation of local terror groups.

Meanwhile, a party-list lawmaker on Saturday reminded incumbent barangay officials that the campaign period for the BSKE should not be a reason for them to stop performing their duties.

AnaKalusugan Party-list Rep. Ray Reyes said that during the campaign period, incumbent barangay officials are still expected to deliver effective health and social services for their constituents.

“To remind our incumbent barangay officials, the start of the campaign period last Oct. 19 doesn’t mean that work in the barangay has ended,” Reyes, vice chair of the House committee on health, said in a statement.

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