THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has placed Negros Oriental under its control to ensure the peace and order ahead of the conduct of the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in October.
This means that the Comelec will have direct supervision over government entities in the area and has full control over all its law enforcement agencies during the election period.
In a press conference on Monday, September 18, 2023, Comelec chairman George Garcia said the BSKE in Negros Oriental will push through amid calls for its postponement due to violent incidents recorded in the province especially following the murder of Governor Roel Degamo that also resulted in the death of nine innocent civilians.
The Comelec conducted public hearings in Negros Oriental following the series of Senate inquiry into the political violence in the province, which also unveiled several incidents prior to Degamo’s execution.
“Minarapat ng inyong Comelec na ituloy ito sapagkat base sa nakalap naming na mga papeles, dokumento, ebidensya mula sa lugar kung saan nagkaron ng tatlong araw na pagdinig ang Comelec, napatunayan namin overwhelmingly, na talaga namang gusto ng kababayan natin doon na tumuloy ang eleksyon sa October 30,” he said.
(The Comelec deserved to continue this because based on the papers, documents, evidence we gathered from the place where the Comelec held a three-day hearing, we proved overwhelmingly that our compatriots there really want the election to continue in October 30.)
Expelled Negros Oriental Third District representative Arnolfo Teves Jr. was charged with murder in relation to the killing of Degamo and three others, namely, former Negros Oriental board member Miguel Dungog, Lester Bato and Pacito Libron in 2019.
Several individuals who served as resource persons also allegedly experienced harassment amid the conduct of the Senate inquiry.
Under Comelec Resolution 10757, an area may be placed under Comelec control if it has a history of/or current intense political rivalry that may result in violence; has a presence of private armed groups, which may sow violence during the election period; and serious armed threat from the communist group and other local terrorist group that may disrupt the holding of free, peaceful, honest, orderly and credible elections in any political division, subdivision, unit or area.
In a press conference on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Benjamin Acorda said they will realign their forces in accordance with the Comelec order.
“’Yung declaration of Comelec control, ‘yung Negros, that help us also in making easier realigning our forces kasi talagang we will be directly coordinating Comelec and in fact, we can deploy and move anytime our forces through the coordination with Comelec and as agreed upon nung last na command conference natin with the regional directors, they are now going to identify kung ano ‘yung mga areas na peaceful at problem areas,” he said.
“So we will be realigning our forces appropriately kung saan ‘yung may medyo problema and Negros is one of the concerns. So we will be augmenting them,” he added.
Meanwhile, PNP chief of the Public Information Office Colonel Jean Fajardo said they have recorded a total of 35 violent incidents since the election period started on August 28.
Fajardo said four of which were validated to be election related. (SunStar Philippines)