MALACANANG will support the move of Commission on Elections (Comelec) should Masbate be placed under the control of the poll body in relation to the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar on Monday said they will comply with the judgment of the AFP, which has been conducting the assessment in the province.

Masbate is considered as one of the election hotspots.

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The possibility of placing Masbate under the Comelec control was raised by Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales upon discovering the presence of several private armies and reports of rampant election-related violence.

“We will leave it to the good judgment of the Secretary of Defense on what should be done in the province in cooperation with the Comelec, which is a separate Constitutional body responsible for the proper conduct of the electoral process,” Olivar said.

Gonzales recently visited Masbate. He also learned about other disturbing reports happening there like the highly politicized system in the judiciary and law enforcement.

The defense chief described the province as a “terrorized community” and a place where “lawlessness is king.”

Based on his assessment, Gonzales said the situation in Masbate reminds him of what he saw and observed in Maguindanao.

Asked to comment on the evaluation of the Gonzales, Olivar said they are confident and trust the assessment of the defense chief and they will be leaving all possible actions to maintain orderly election in Masbate to the AFP.

He added that they will respect the decision of the Comelec should they choose to place Masbate under their control. “Palace is confident in and will defer to the discretion of Comelec on this matter as always.”

The Comelec has tapped the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help in ensuring peaceful election on May 10 particularly on the election hotspots.

Some of the provinces identified as election hotspots were Abra, Ilocos Norte, Nueva Ecija, Western Samar, Eastern Samar, Antique, Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Sarangani, and Zamboanga Sibugay. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)