THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday expressed alarm over violent incidents involving elected officials even as it insisted that not all of the clashes were related to elections or to next year’s local and national polls.
“We are hoping to schedule a command conference with the PNP [Philippine National Police] as early as possible… But we want to be careful also before putting a label on such [incidents]because we don’t like to create an impression of violence when in fact there is none,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.
Jimenez was reacting to the killing of Randy Climaco, mayor of Tungawan, Zam¬boanga-Sibugay, last Monday just hours after Climaco filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) before the local Comelec office.
Six others were wounded in the attack on Climaco, including Tunga¬wan Vice Mayor Abdurauf Abison.
Jimenez explained that the incident needs to be evaluated first by the PNP before it can be declared election-related.
“At first glance, you might call it election-related but again you have to rule out other things first. We don’t want to call it election-related on first impression and then later on find out that it is not. Again, just because it involved an elected official does not make it election-related,” the Come¬lec spokesman said.
He, however, added that if the violence continues, the Comelec can recommend certain actions to be done by authorities, subject to PNP assessment.
An early gun ban, according to Jimenez, may possibly be imposed outside of the start of the election period but only after it has been determined that the Comelec has the authority to do so and also only after recommendations from the PNP and Comelec regional offices are made.
The PNP, he said, has started assessing security scenarios in relation to the 2016 elections for purposes of determining the “hot spots” or “areas of concern” where election-related violence may erupt.
Among the bases before a place is declared a “hot spot” are occurrence of violence or history of violence, perennial inclusion of the area on a list of “hot spots” and high potential for violence because of political rivalry.
Jimenez said, without elaborating, in extreme cases of election-related violence, the Comelec can take control of an area.