Comelec: Elections generally peaceful
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The conduct of yesterday’s barangay elections was generally peaceful and orderly except for “some minor incidents,” according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.

As of early evening yesterday, Brillantes said only 18 “peace, security and other election-related incidents” had been reported.

Asked about problems in the vote, Brillantes told a press briefing, “There’s almost none.”

He said the 18 incidents were “very minimal” considering that the country has 42,028 barangays.

The leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the military shared the same observation.

“The elections were successful,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Several teachers assigned as board of election tellers (BET), however, did not show up for duty due to security threats, forcing the deferment of voting  in 94 barangays.

The Comelec director for elections and barangay affairs department said 66 of these barangays are in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, including 51 in Lanao del Sur, three in Maguindanao, six in Basilan and two in Tawi-Tawi.

On Calayan island in Cagayan province, the vote was reset for tomorrow and Thursday as election paraphernalia failed to reach the island on time due to the refusal of the Philippine Coast Guard to allow sea travel, citing bad weather.

Comelec deputy executive director for operations Bartolome Sinocruz said polling precincts in the National Capital Region and regions 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11, 12 and 13 “functioned” effectively.

The 18 violent incidents included ballot snatching in San Antonio, Catubig in Northern Samar and in Bukut-Umus in Tabuan-Lasa, Basilan; a fire that partially damaged seven clustered precincts in Padre Burgos Elementary School in Sta. Mesa, Manila; missing ballots in Tonsuya, Malabon; delayed delivery of election paraphernalia in Banoctog, Pinagtigasan, Mankawayan and Vinzon in Camarines Norte; harassment of board of election tellers in barangays San Jose and Lucmayan in Nueva Valencia in Guimaras, and shooting incidents that left one person dead in Poblacion, Toboso in Negros Occidental.

There were also reports of molotov bomb explosions in Don Mariano Marcos Elementary School and Isaac Ablayan Elementary school in Mati, Digos City in Davao de Sur; shooting incidents in barangay Nagba, Cuartero, Capiz between two groups of kagawads, and strafing in barangay Macasindig in Midsayap, Cotabato.

Brillantes attributed the generally successful conduct of the elections to preparations set by the Comelec’s steering committee.

He said this year’s village polls were “more satisfactory” than the one in 2010.

Brillantes expressed hope the trend would continue “as we move into more critical stages of counting and canvassing.”

Asked about voter turnout, the poll chief said he could not yet give a figure. The Comelec was expecting 70 to 80 percent of the over 54 million voters would take part in the elections. Filipinos are historically more interested in barangay polls.

Suspension of proclamation

Despite what he considered generally orderly polls, Brillantes said proclamation of some winning candidates may have to wait indefinitely as the poll body would have to resolve first some candidates’ eligibility issues.

“Because of time constraints, we were not able to resolve some issues like the petitions that seek to declare some candidates as a nuisance candidates. So we decided in the en banc that they should not be proclaimed in case they win,” he added.

The Comelec has also decided to suspend the proclamation of candidates who were found to be not registered voters. So far, some 300 bets were found to be in this situation.

“If you are not a register voter, you are not eligible to run. We have not declared them as eligible as yet, so we are suspending the proclamation of those we have verified in our records who are not registered voters,” he said.

The poll body has also ordered the suspension of the proclamation of four bets, in case they win, who were found to have been convicted by the courts.

Section 6 of Republic Act 6646 provides that: “If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning number of votes in such election, the court shall continue with the trial and hearing of the case… the Commission may order the suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of his guilt is strong.”

“We already informed the concerned Board of Election Tellers not to proclaim, the Board of Canvassers not to proclaim those with nuisance petitions against them. There will be hearing to give them due process,” Brillantes added.

Fearful teachers

In Maguindanao, the Comelec had to tap police trainees to administer the polls after 956 BETs in the province refused to serve for fear of their safety.

Brillantes also said some BETs in five towns in Lanao del Sur and one in Kalinga also did not report for work, citing security concerns.

The Comelec also gave assurance that all incumbent barangay officials would have to step down when their terms of office expire on Nov. 30.

In Resolution No. 98000, the Comelec maintained that the declaration of “failure of election” in a certain areas due to “violence, terrorism or other analogous cases” can no longer be used as an excuse by incumbent barangay leaders to stay on.

The Comelec, based on the resolution, would place such areas under its “immediate and direct control and supervision.” The Comelec said the resolution is aimed at preventing losing candidates or other unscrupulous individuals from creating a “failure of election” scenario to extend their stay in office.

Brillantes also expressed hope the designation of special polling precincts in commercial malls for senior citizens and people with disabilities would be fully implemented come the 2016 elections.

The polls chief and commissioner Elias Yusoph yesterday personally checked on the conduct of elections at SM Manila where the Comelec set up a voting desk for 37 senior citizens registered at the polling precincts at the Manuel Araullo High School in Manila.

Showing he was in a good mood, Brillantes escorted voter Guillermo Roldan to a voting desk and playfully mimicked a reporter while interviewing even him holding a recorder.

The poll chief and Yusoph also had their blood pressure taken at the first aid station.

Meanwhile, two bills have been filed in Congress seeking the creation of a Barangay Retirement Fund (BRF) and the granting of P1,000 monthly allowance to barangay tanod (watchmen) for peacekeeping duties.

In pushing for a retirement fund for barangay officials through House Bill 55, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez said “barangay workers are in the frontline of government services in the grassroots. They deliver the much needed basic social services to the people and maintain peace and order.”

He said that despite their responsibilities, barangay front liners also receive the least compensation.

“This reality has not discouraged some of our fellow Filipinos to serve their respective barangays and some have even stayed in barangay work for many years,” the lawmaker said.

The amount of BRF, based on the proposal, would be equivalent to one percent of the share of the national government under Section 284 of the Local Government HB 55 which states that barangay officials and workers shall be entitled to a lump sum retirement pay equivalent to one year honorarium, but not to exceed P100,000 to be taken from the BRF, provided the retiree is at least 60 years of age with a minimum of nine years in service at the time of retirement.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Maximo, for their part, filed HB 2447 seeking monthly allowance of P1,000 for barangay peacekeeping officers.

They said the grant of a monthly allowance would “encourage the tanods to be more vigilant and enthusiastic in their duties.”

“They can be utilized as sources of intelligence by the police. They can be tapped for information on suspicious persons and activities in their respective barangay,” they said.

They cited the recent bombing in Cagayan de Oro City, which they said could have possibly been prevented had the barangay tanods been enlisted for intelligence gathering. Alexis Romero and Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero and Jess Diaz

ALEXIS ROMERO AND CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE ALFREDO BENITEZ ARMED FORCES AUTONOMOUS REGION BARANGAY BARANGAY RETIREMENT FUND BRILLANTES COMELEC ELECTION ELECTIONS
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