MALACAÑANG warned on Friday that President Rodrigo R. Duterte will not allow any form of cheating by the election commission in the 2019 midterm elections on Monday, stressing that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should ensure the integrity of the ballots.

“Huwag na nilang ituloy kung ano ang balak nila, hindi papayag si Presidente (They should not push through with whatever they plan to do, the President will not allow it),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo warned at a press briefing on Friday.

In a statement, he said: “We urge the Commission on Elections to do its constitutional duty as the sentinel of the elections in ensuring the integrity of the ballots. Any form of cheating committed by the electoral body’s personnel or contractor (Smartmatic) will not to be tolerated by this Administration.”

He noted that there have been “concerns and apprehensions” raised by “various quarters” regarding the conduct of the upcoming 2019 elections.

“The President has put in place measures designed to determine if cheating has been committed in the polls. We are thus issuing a stern warning to those who have sinister plans and evil machinations of thwarting the will of the electorate to abandon them,” he said.

He also stressed that violators will be “prosecuted to the fullest extent” of the law, and nobody will be spared “regardless of their political affiliation or station” in life.

Mr. Panelo likewise reported that the government is now “all set” for the elections with “36,000 schools now ready to be used as polling precincts and 230,000 teachers as members of the Electoral Boards and technical support for Monday’s elections, as per the Department of Education.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP), he also said, will deploy “150,000 police personnel in various parts of the country to ensure public safety and security” on Monday.

He noted that the PNP has already launched the National Election Monitoring Action Center “to monitor situations in all polling centers from Camp Crame, including the arrival of vote counting machines (VCMs), counting of ballots, and delivery of ballot boxes.”

The Department of Energy (DoE), he said, has assured that there will be “stable power” on Monday, which has been “a paramount concern as electricity is required in the automated voting system.”

“We wish the candidates all the best. This is the time to show our Filipino bayanihan spirit in ensuring that the elections will be held without any major glitches and will reflect the true desires of the Filipino people,” Mr. Panelo said.

Meanwhile, the PNP said that 24 individuals have been arrested for alleged vote-buying since January 13.

“As of today, based on the reports forwarded dito sa (here at the) National Election Monitoring Center, all in all, we have arrested 24 persons already. Merong dalawang nakatakas na hinahanap ng ating mga pulis (two escaped and the police are searching for them),” said PNP Director of Operations Police Major General Mao Aplasca at a press briefing on Friday, May 10 at Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Mr. Aplasca said that these incidents were reported in Region IV-A and the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The PNP has created 105 special teams against vote buying. — Arjay L. Balinbin with Vince Angelo C. Ferreras