A closer look at Maguindanao in the 2019 elections (Part 1 of 2)
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
The Philippine Commission on Elections reported that in the 2019 elections Maguindanao province had the most number of unopposed candidates. Of the 36 municipalities in the province, 13 mayoral and 14 vice mayoral candidates, or about 36 percent, did not have any opponents. Of the 288 posts for members of municipal councils, 72 candidates or 25 percent, ran unopposed. A municipal council (sangguniang bayan) is composed of eight members. Elections for these posts are considered uncontested when there are also just eight candidates.
In nine towns (chart on Unopposed Post/s) the candidates for local councils, as well those for mayors and vice mayors were unopposed.
One of the reasons why some posts are uncontested, we were told, is that traditional leaders would mediate among possible candidates in order to avert conflict. The rationale to mediate would be stronger especially if contestants come from the same clan. The intervention would result in an agreement as to who would run and who would give way.
(Tell us what you think about why this could be the case in Maguindanao or why some elective posts are more uncontested than others by participating in this short anonymized survey.)
* According to the COMELEC, Datu Paglas municipality had eight remaining candidates after three withdrew from the race.
What was the 2019 turnout? Maguindanao had 766,497 registered voters, from which 550,862 voted, or a turnout of 71.9 percent. The province posted a slightly lower turnout (chart on Comparative turnout) compared to the four other provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The municipality of Mangudadatu recorded the highest turnout of 98 percent, while Northern Kabuntalan posted the lowest at 50 percent.
How did the province vote? We looked at how voters voted for each of the elective positions and matched it against the turnout (see box for explanation). The data (Table of Single elective positions below) show how voters by municipality voted for positions where only one candidate is going to be elected. These are for the positions of party list representative to Congress, provincial governor and vice governor, district representative to Congress, town mayor and vice mayor.
The COMELEC computes voter turnout as equal to the number of voters who actually voted. This is the sum of undervotes, overvotes (for single elective posts) and valid votes. There is no report of the number of invalid ballots. But the COMELEC should do so in order to fully account for all ballots. If a voter chose to mark on the ballot less than 12 candidates for senator, an undervote condition for the position of senator would occur. In this case all the chosen candidates will each get a vote. However, if a voter chose more than 12 candidates for senator, an overvote condition happens, and none of the candidates that the voter chose would get a vote. A voter who undervotes, say for a lone candidate for mayor, is said to have abstained from voting for the position. Neither an undervote nor an overvote condition would invalidate a ballot. An invalid ballot is that which is not readable by the machine. It could be that a ballot is torn or missing the machine-readable security feature. It could also be that a ballot is one that is not programmed for a particular machine, possibly fake or coming from a different polling station, which would then be rejected by the machine.
The party list elections and vice gubernatorial elections got slightly less attention to voters as compared with the other positions. Voters were also less likely to vote for the maximum number of candidates allowed to be voted for in the case of multiple candidate positions (Table of Multiple elective positions below).
Data from the senatorial contest show that voters do not vote for the maximum 12 candidates. On average voters in Maguindanao chose only five candidates. Nationally, the fill-up rate for the senatorial post is 7.7 candidates.
The party list contest has the lowest fill-up rate for single elective positions. Just over two-thirds of the voters in the province cast a vote for the position. However, this is markedly better than the national fill-up rate for the party list contest, which is 0.58. Nationally, only a little over half voters cast a vote for this position.
In Maguindanao, the partly list contest also showed the most number of overvotes, which is 4.7 percent. (The average is 4.5 percent and a median of 4.1 percent). The most overvotes was 14.9 percent, which was recorded in the municipality of Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, where close to 15 percent of the voters in this town voted for more than one candidate.
The municipalities where the fill-up rate is 1.0 or where almost all voters voted for a party list representative, were in Mangudadatu and Pandag. Also in these two municipalities, all local posts were unopposed. The
results showed the party list group, 147 ALENG ENTREP, garnering 99 percent of valid votes. The same party also won the province with 23.4 percent of the votes.