MANILA -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has disqualified 55 candidates who are running for different local positions in Maguindanao for the May 10 elections.

The Comelec en banc said the aspirants were barred from joining the polls for failure to register in the areas from which they are seeking to be elected, which is a primary requirement by law.

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“The commission resolves to disqualify these aspirants for not being registered voters in the municipalities where they seek to be elected,” part of the decision read.

Under the Local Government Code of 1991, “an elective local official must be a registered voter in the barangay, municipality, city, or province or, in the case of a member of the Provincial Board, City Council, or Municipal Council, the district where he intends to be elected.”

Forty-two of the disqualified aspirants belong to the administration party Lakas-Kampi-CMD, while the remaining 13 are running as independent candidates.

Aside from being disqualified, the Comelec Law Department will be filing election offense cases against the candidates for violating the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).

Section 74 of the OEC requires aspiring candidates to declare in their Certificates of Candidacy (COC) their complete eligibility to run for the position, including the area where they are registered voters.

If found guilty, the violators will be imprisoned from one to six years, disqualified to hold public office, and deprived of the right to suffrage.

Among the disqualified aspirants are one vice mayoral and three councilor candidates in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, and the vice mayoralty bet and nine candidates for councilors in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town.

In Shariff Aguak, the capital town of Maguindanao, the mayoralty, vice mayoralty, and six councilor bets were prohibited to run, as well as the mayoralty, vice mayoralty and eight councilor candidates in Datu Salibo town.

The Lakas-Kampi mayoralty, vice mayoralty and eight councilors' aspirants in Datu Unsay town were also declared ineligible to run, as well as the independent mayoral, vice mayoral and seven councilor bets.

In Pagalungan town, four independent candidates were barred from running in the May elections, including one mayoral and three councilors.

Lastly, a councilor bet in Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur who is running under the Liberal Party (LP) was also prevented to run by the Comelec.

The Maguindanao province is a known bailiwick of the administration party. It is also the stronghold of the Ampatuans, who were once members of Lakas-Kampi but were expelled from the party in connection with the worst political killing in the country’s history – the Maguindanao massacre.

The Ampatuans are believed to have masterminded the November 23, 2009 carnage, which killed at least 57 people, including 30 journalists. (FP/Sunnex)