Comelec postpones barangay polls in Bohol

Mayen Jaymalin - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has deferred the Oct. 28  barangay elections in the earthquake-ravaged province of Bohol.

“We are postponing the elections in the entire island of Bohol and the reasons will be specified in a formal resolution,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. announced yesterday.

Brillantes said the commission will issue a formal resolution ordering the postponement and setting of a new schedule for the barangay polls in Bohol as well as in Zamboanga City, which is still recovering from a three-week rebel siege last September.

Officials said 185 people were killed after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor on Oct. 15. Most of the fatalities were reported in Bohol.

The quake displaced 370,000 people in various towns of Bohol. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology has recorded more than 2,000 aftershocks.

The Comelec earlier deferred the barangay elections in Zamboanga City after more than 400 Moro National Liberation Front rebels belonging to the Nur Misuari faction stormed Zamboanga City last Sept. 9 to seize the city hall and raise the flag of an “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”

Some 190 MNLF rebels were killed after more than three weeks of fighting, while 292 suspects were captured or have surrendered.

Twenty-three soldiers and policemen were killed and 180 were wounded, while 12 civilians were killed.

At least 120,000 villagers fled their homes as the rebels burned houses to derail military operations.

The Comelec held a special meeting yesterday to discuss the situation in Bohol and decide whether to postpone or not the elections in Bohol.

Brillantes said the commissioners had considered numerous factors in their decision to defer the barangay elections in Bohol.

Since the elections have been postponed, Brillantes said, candidates in Bohol should immediately stop campaigning.

“This is so everybody can concentrate in giving relief,” Brillantes explained.

The Comelec chief went to Bohol over the weekend to assess the situation and decide whether to postpone or push through with the elections.

One Vote Movement accredited

Meanwhile, the Comelec has accredited One Vote Movement as one of the citizen’s arms of the poll body in the barangay polls, after it complied with all the requirements.

As a citizen’s arm, the One Vote Movement is mandated to assist the Comelec as well as the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in voters’ information and education drives of prisoners in detention, persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

The group will also coordinate with the PPCRV as an attached organization for poll watching activities and carry out their functions as instructed by the commission.

In a resolution, the Comelec said One Vote Movement has a mass-based constituency that assists the commission in the performance of its functions and activities in connection with the barangay polls.

Poll violence

The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported yesterday that 15 persons were killed and 17 others were wounded in 20 election-related violent incidents nationwide in the past 23 days since the election period for the barangay polls started on Sept. 28.

In the 20 incidents from Sept. 28 to Oct. 21, 15 persons were killed and 17 wounded, said Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office (PIO) chief.

“Of the fatalities, two were barangay captains, five were kagawads, a candidate, and seven civilians,” Sindac added. “Those injured were four barangay chairmen, two kagawads, two town councilors, a candidate, and eight civilians.”

Sindac said Bicol and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) both recorded three shooting incidents.

Police authorities are conducting follow-up operations and further investigation on the incidents.

Several bishops are planning to hold peace covenants among candidates in the barangay polls.

Peace covenant

Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian said that they would arrange a peace covenant on Oct. 27 on the eve of elections. They would also offer a mass for a peaceful election, to be followed by a procession.

Cabanatuan City Bishop Sofronio Bancud said it has become a tradition in their diocese to organize peace pacts before election day.

“We would gather (the candidates) and they would have a talk on good governance and community building,” Bancud said.

Bacolod City election officer Mavil Majarucon-Sia warned local candidates to avoid overspending and other poll violations like putting up posters in wrong areas to avoid disqualification.

She reminded the candidates that they are allowed to spend only P5 for each registered voter.  – With Evelyn Macairan, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Danny Dangcalan

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