THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has placed the town of Pantar in Lanao del Norte under its direct control to ensure voting in the May 9 synchronized elections.
Commissioner Rowena Guanzon disclosed that more areas would be placed under Comelec control in the rundown to next month’s polls.
The other areas being considered to be put under Comelec control are Marawi City in Lanao del Sur and Northern Samar, among others.
This is almost parallel with the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) election watch list areas (EWAs), with similar criteria such as areas with intense political rivalry, private armed groups, armed organizations, or where violence has occurred in the past.
“This is to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised. That voters will not be discouraged from voting because of the armed groups. There are lot of requests (for areas to be placed under Comelec control). Areas with NPA (New People’s Army), PAGs (private armed groups) are among our problems,” Guanzon added.
Guanzon explained that Comelec has the authority to take administrative control of areas under its control, including the disbursements of public funds.
The Comelec en banc also came up on Wednesday with Resolution No.10074 detailing the guidelines in placing any political division, subdivision, unit or area under its control.
Under the guidelines, the Comelec may place an area under its immediate and direct control and supervision if there is a history of or current intense rivalry among the contending parties that could motivate people to engage in violent acts; the presence of private armed groups (PAGs); proliferation of loose firearms; and serious armed threats posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); or other paramilitary forces, private armies and other armed bands.
A Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Personnel (CBFSP), headed by Comm. Al Parreño, was tasked by the Comelec en banc to ensure the conduct of free, peaceful, orderly, honest and credible elections in areas under Comelec control.
The CBFSP will supervise and control the administrative activities and transactions of local government units under Comelec control, including the distribution, assignment and deployment of police and military personnel to ensure strict compliance with elections bans and prohibitions.
When necessary, the CBFSP, may substitute a whole unit of the police force assigned in the locality concerned with another police unit.
It can also relieve any police or military officer or personnel who may be found unsuitable for continuance in his present assignment, and revoke as well all exemptions under the firearms ban to candidates and their bodyguards.
Except when prior approval or authority of the election ban is required, the CBFSP decisions and orders shall be final and immediately executory, unless modified, reversed or revoked by the Commission.
Meanwhile, about nine provinces, with some 260 cities and municipalities, have been included under the PNP EWAs in Regions 1, 3, 4A, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the National Capital Region (NCR).
The list is expected to include more localities as the May 9 elections takes place in barely two weeks as of this writing.