AUTHORITIES in Negros Occidental province are already gearing up for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections this May 14.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) provincial election officer Jessie Suarez on Thursday led the Provincial Joint Security Control Center meeting at the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (Nocppo) headquarters at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City.

It was also attended by Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr., Negros Occidental provincial police director, and a representative of Col. Eliezer Losañes, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Murcia town.

Suarez said the poll body, police and the army will oversee the maintenance of peace and order in the conduct of the elections.

In the conference, it was discussed that they will focus on the areas of concerns especially those localities with a high political rivalry.

Suarez said they expect more areas of concerns will be identified because the barangay and SK elections are always considered hotly-contested given the fact that rivalries are centered on families, neighbors, and friends that mostly break relations.

This is intense as compared to the local and national elections, he said.

"The scope of the campaign is confined in a limited area, so the people there can easily throw hurting words, inviting more trouble. I just appealed to all candidates and their supporters to level up their campaign. This election will just pass but relationships of families, neighbors, and friends are very important. Let this election be held peacefully and orderly and most of all, let us avoid breaking ties and relationships," he said.

He said they should avoid violence and conduct the elections professionally. "Avoid mudslinging. Avoid engaging in gutter language as against any candidate. We will conduct a forum to impart to the candidates on what to do during the elections."

Suarez said the poll body continues its preparations for the elections despite the move to postpone it.

"Seeing the timeline now, it seems that the situation is favorable to the conduct of the barangay and SK polls. The filing is already on April 14 to 21. Since the proposed resetting is still at the house committee level and there is no counterpart bill in the senate, this might be an impossibility to postpone it," he said.

Moreover, the barangay election is a prelude to the local and national elections where candidates who want to run for mayor and others try to extend support to the barangay and SK candidates, he said. "This should not be done because we need to observe non-partisanship in the conduct of the barangay and SK elections," he added.

He reminded the incumbent officials and those who plan to run in the May elections to let the candidates and people decide on their own.

Candidates for barangay posts must be at least 18 years old, able to read and write, Filipino citizen, a resident of the barangay for at least one year.

For the SK election, the candidates should 18 to 24 years old and the voters should be 15 to 30 years of age.

There is also a new anti-dynasty law that if a voter is related to the incumbent officials within the second degree of consanguinity, you are disqualified to run.

The first degree of consanguinity is a relationship from parents to children; second degree is from grandparents to grandchildren and brother and sisters; the third degree is an uncle and nephew and fourth-degree is the cousin.

Meanwhile, the 662 barangays in the province including Bacolod City have 11,302 established precincts and 5,190 clustered precincts.

Negros Occidental is the fourth vote-rich province in the country with 1,768,087 voters.

In the SK level, there are 11,109 established precincts and 5,190 clustered precincts, with a total of 612,063 youth voters.

In total, 2,380,150 are expected to cast their votes during the village and youth polls.

The province has a total of 741 voting centers.*