AN ELECTION Commissioner on Monday reminded candidates for local posts on their role in maintaining peace in their respective areas to avoid being placed under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“I hope that all local candidates can help us avoid placing your respective areas under Comelec control,” Election Commissioner George Erwin M. Garcia said in Filipino in a recorded video of a Comelec peace covenant signing ceremony in Quezon province.
Under the Philippine Constitution and related rules, the Comelec can exercise direct control over national and local officials or employees, including law enforcement agencies during the campaign period and thirty days thereafter.
The election body can tap the military, police, and other government agencies as deputies to ensure peaceful elections in particular areas that are deemed under serious threat of violence.
Further, the election body last week amended its gun ban rules, which included giving authority to the Comelec chief to declare election areas of concern under the agency’s control.
“It is wrong to think that a Comelec controlled area is against only the incumbent official of the province,” said Mr. Garcia. “When an area is placed under Comelec control, this is against all candidates.”
He noted that an area placed under Comelec control could drive away investors.
Mr. Garcia also noted that a visit by Comelec officials does not mean the place is facing peace and security threats.
“It does not mean that just because we go to a certain place it means that it is a chaotic area,” he said at the ceremony in Quezon. “It only means that we wish to focus on this area.”
Comelec Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan said last week that he would only use his new authority on gun ban exemptions and control declarations in “extreme cases.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año earlier said the Philippine National Police has identified 105 towns and 15 cities as election areas of concern.
Comelec Spokesperson James B Jimenez previously said the agency still has to finalize and validate the list of so-called election hotspots.
Election Commissioners Marlon S. Casquejo, Aimee P. Ferolino, and Socorro B. Inting voted against the amendment. — John Victor D. Ordonez