Comelec: ‘We are ready’

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials expressed readiness for Monday’s polls, as contingency measures are in place for possible violence and other election scenarios.

Comelec-Cordillera Director Julius Torres said he is positive of peaceful elections in the region similar to the May 13 polls, saying the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been able to perform well in the previous national elections, especially in the provinces of Abra and Kalinga, where most of areas of concern and areas of immediate of concern are situated.

Compared to the barangay elections in 2010, Torres said this year’s preparations are easier, citing the transport of election materials went smooth last week unlike in previous polls when several provinces in the Cordillera were severely devastated by Typhoon Juan, leaving some barangays isolated.

This time, he said all provincial election supervisors relayed to the regional office their readiness for the elections Monday. In the 2010 barangay polls, the election supervisors recommended for a week’s delay of the voting due to lack of power and access to some barangays.

Torres said they are confident of the peacekeeping efforts by the AFP and PNP, as seen in the past midterm elections when election-related violence has been decreasing.

One area they have been focusing in the past week at the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Council are two precincts in Lubuagan, Kalinga where an existing tribal war between two groups is causing uneasiness to voters in casting their votes.

Provincial election supervisor Dexter Cawis recommended for the removal of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) who will serve in the precincts in Lubuagan, as they cannot serve without being non-partisan being relatives of candidates.

Cawis recommended for the AFP and PNP personnel to act as BEIs in Barangay Mabutot due to their existing tribal war with some clans in the Poblacion barangay of the town.

He said in the 2010 elections, ballot box snatching also happened in the same town in Kalinga but the supervisor stressed the local election officials have already addressed and planned contingency measures for the conduct of safe and orderly elections in some 513 clustered precincts located in 195 voting centers in the province.

In Abra, he remained confident the peaceful elections last May will be replicated this barangay elections, with the PNP and AFP on standby to respond to violence that may possibly arise in the 532 clustered precincts in some 258 voting centers there.

In Baguio City, acting election officer Anita Navalta said assurances made by Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) Director Jesus Cambay Jr. of additional deployment of 30 policemen for the voting centers of Barangays Kabayanihan, Kagitingan and Malcolm Square is enough to pacify the fear of some voters that violence and harassment may escalate in their precincts.

Mobile patrols will also be deployed by the BCPO in Barangay Camp 7 due to intense political rivalry among candidates.

She said they are ensuring fast elections and proclamations in some 472 clustered precincts located in some 49 voting centers for 128 barangays in the city.

In Baguio City, some 335 hopefuls filed their certificates of candidacy for punong barangay with some 14 punong barangays unopposed while some 2,192 candidates are running as barangay kagawads.

Comelec data show there are some 953,006 voters in the region who will cast their votes in 3,283 clustered precincts in some 1,361 voting centers.
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