Cebu News

City hall security tightened: Ballots now here

Jean Marvette A. Demecillo - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - One week before the May 9 national and local elections, 837 boxes containing official ballots for the over 630,000 voters in Cebu City are now with the City Treasurer's Office in City Hall.

The Vote Counting Machines for Cebu City will be delivered on May 5 and will be distributed to the city's 70 polling centers on May 6, said Commission on Election-Cebu City North District Edwin Cadungog.

The official ballots arrived in City Hall at 1:30 p.m. and were escorted by personnel from the Special Weapons and Tactics and Mobile Patrol Group.

The two 10-wheeler trucks of 2GO Travel that transported the boxes were only opened past 3 p.m. yesterday since representatives from different parties were informed late of the arrival of the official ballots.

City Treasurer Diwa Cuevas said the city government has activated the security cameras in City Hall to secure the election paraphernalia.

"We have 385 boxes for the first district (north) and 452 boxes of official ballots for the second district (south)," she told reporters.

City Hall security guards will be augmenting the 12 policemen assigned to secure the third floor.

Cuevas said a team of four policemen will be guarding the floor per shifts. There will be three shifts in a day.

She said Comelec has also requested one fire truck on standby near the City Hall premises to quickly respond to any fire alarm.

Another team of policemen will be securing the City Hall's Management Information and Computer Services office where a radio room is located.

"We have also improved the fire exits of the City Hall building as requested by the inspectors last week," she said.

Cadungog said the official ballots will be distributed to different precincts in 70 polling centers dawn of May 9.

"Ang dispatch ana is ang una is the far-flung barangays the first batch sa delivery na," he said, adding that there will be three groups that will be deployed to distribute the official ballots.

The distribution will start at 1 a.m. on May 9, he said. He added that by 4 a.m. the official ballots will be delivered to urban polling centers.

Cadungog said all official ballots should be at the respective precincts before 6 a.m. so voting can start immediately.

For the VCMs, he said the final testing and sealing is slated for May 6 after the machines will arrive on May 5. Polling centers can start the testing and sealing as soon as they receive the machines.

As for the security measures, he said it will be provided by law enforcement agencies and offices.

"It is the task of the law enforcement office or agency ang mo-secure sa atong VCMs and official ballots. I understand nga kon karong panahona, makita nato, naa na ang deployment sa atong security officers kay duna na'y gi-deploy ang PNP sa Cebu City," he said.

Yesterday, representatives of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan and Liberal Party, Team Rama and United Nationalist Alliance witnessed the arrival of the official ballots together with representatives of presidential except that of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Cuevas said her office is still waiting for other election supplies like the envelops for election returns during testing and sealing, for counted ballots for testing and sealing, other forms for election watchers identification cards in polling place, Commission on Elections pass, ballpens, and thumbprint pads.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office-7 is now on full alert ahead of the May 9 national and local elections.

 Chief Superintendent Patrocinio Comendador, Jr., PRO-7 regional director, said based on guidelines from their head office, after May 1 the PNP is on full alert status.

"Full alert na ta sugod karon. Atong kapulisan should be able to respond 24/7…ready for deployment anytime," he said.

Comendador said reports of disturbances are nothing new during elections, referring to a grenade throwing incident in Barangay Cang-agong, Siquijor around 5 p.m. Sunday, and an alleged strafing incident in Barangay Tejero, Cebu City, around 2 a.m. yesterday.

Comendador said it was impossible that no one saw who threw the grenade.

"Not pinpointing blame to anybody but I gave instruction to Provincial Director of Siquijor Senior Superintendent Erson Digal to investigate and run after the suspect," he said.

Comendador said if the grenade incident turns out to be a political stunt he warned candidates that they will prosecute them in accordance with the law.

"If tinuod atong gukuron ang suspect if di tinuod gibutang-butangan ta…again this is fair warning to candidates that we will prosecute them according to the ends of the law," he said.

Regarding the strafing incident, Comendador said they cannot yet determine the motive.

"Wa pa ka determine sa motive pero definitely naa na'y lead ang Cebu City Police Office," he said.

The personnel of PRO-7 also signed an oath of non-partisanship yesterday.

Comendador said the signing of non-partisanship is a requirement from their national headquarters.

"The purpose is to instill to the minds of the public that the police remains neutral and impartial and non-partisan during this election," he said.

Pablo John Garcia of One Cebu party, who is running for 7th district representative, earlier said he hopes that the PNP will not be used by the administration. —with Mylen P. Manto and Frances Marianne C. Nudalo (FREEMAN)


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