COTABATO CITY — The Philippine National Police (PNP) has put all villages in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) under watch in the upcoming Oct. 25 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections due to intense political rivalries in the region.
Senior Supt. Federico Castro, chief of the directorial staff of the PNP-ARMM, said they have opted to classify all the region’s 2,616 barangays as “areas of concern” to ensure that police personnel are always on alert to thwart any possible violence and that there will be a smooth conduct of the coming electoral exercises in the region.
Lawyer Rey Sumalipao, regional elections director for ARMM, had earlier said the poll body has identified 381 barangays in the autonomous region as “areas of immediate concerns” and set in place necessary measures to to allow the electorate in these areas to vote peacefully.
Castro said the ARMM’s police force has already dispatched substantial personnel all over the region under order to ensure the sanctity of ballots in Monday’s elections, regardless of the classifications of the villages they are deployed in.
ARMM component city and provinces with their corresponding barangays include Lanao del Sur (1,158), Maguindanao (494), Tawi-Tawi (203), Sulu (410), Basilan (245), and Marawi City (96).
For its part, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which covers the ARMM mainland provinces, said it has reactivated its Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections) jointly with the local media and other concerned sectors to safeguard Monday’s polls from possible violence or frauds.
“We have reactivated Task Force HOPE and we are glad that our partner-entities have signified enthusiasm to carry out voluntary works to push the coming elections to its ideal course,” Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, 6th Infantry Division deputy chief and task force chairman, told the Bulletin.
Meanwhile, the International Monitoring Team (IMT), which oversees the observance of truce between government forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), facilitated the signing of a peace covenant on Thursday here in support of the drive for peaceful, clean and order conduct of Monday’s elections in Southern Philippines, including the ARMM.
The IMT, led by Malaysian military officers, brokered the covenant signing among members of the MILF-GRP joint committees of the cessation of hostilities at its office here.
ARMM Education Secretary Baratucal Caudang lauded on Friday the cohesive preparations of the police, military and civilian authorities for Monday’s polls, saying that such manifestations would augur well for the services of teachers deputized in the elections.
“Our deputized teachers have all been refreshed well of their functions and duties in the Oct. 25 elections…And the preparations by other stakeholders came as a reassuring development for our teachers,” Caudang told newsmen.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church’s poll watchdog expressed concern yesterday that the “no work, no pay” policy of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the approaching tropical cyclone in the country might deter people from voting in Monday’s Barangay and SK elections.
Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said they are concerned that the labor policy would only further discourage the people from actually voting on Monday.
“That’s the very reason why we are making the rounds now because we have this feeling that the people will maximize the time and go on extended vacation," she said in an interview.
“This no work, no pay pronouncement will further add to that (lack of drive). The people might choose not to vote at all,” added De Villa.
To recall, the Labor department earlier announced that the “No work, no pay” policy will be applied during the Barangay and SK elections.
Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz issued the statement in view of President Aquino’s declaration that Oct. 25 is a special non-working holiday throughout the country.
“During special (non-working) holidays, the principle of ‘no work, no pay’ applies and based on this principle and by law, workers not required or permitted to work are not entitled to any compensation,” said Baldoz.
Another concern of De Villa is the tropical cyclone which, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), might enter the country this weekend.
The PPCRV official, however, said she is still hoping that people would exercise their right to vote on Election Day.
“People should not belittle the barangay elections because this is the fundamental basic unit of government — The barangay is the space where people can practice the meaning of democracy,” said De Villa.
PPCRV is the accredited citizens’ arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Pasig City said Friday they are all set for the holding of the Barangay and SK elections on Monday.
Atty. Ma. Anne De Vera Gonzales, Election Officer IV and head of the Pasig City Comelec District 1, said in an interview that security is also now in place to ensure that the elections will be free from any form of violence.
She said even the election paraphernalia to be used for Monday's poll exercise is set for distribution in the district's 22 barangays. Aside from this, they have already updated the data on their voter's record.
“Everything is all set. We're ready for Monday," she said.
She added that for District II, a total of 61 candidates will run as barangay chairman in the district's 22 barangays while some 541 candidates will run as barangay kagawad.
For the SK elections, a total of 63 candidates will run for the top post while some 384 candidates will run as kagawad, making this years' Barangay and SK elections the biggest in terms of the number of candidates running.
The Comelec District II has a total of 114, 797 registered voters with Barangay Caniogan with the most number of registered voters with 16,585
For her part, Mrs. Salvadora Mandocdoc, Election Assistant 2 from the Pasig City Comelec District II, disclosed that a total of 30 candidates will vie for the barangay chairmanship post while some 224 candidates will slug it out for the kagawad post.
On the other hand, 19 candidates will vie for the SK top post while 152 will run for the SK kagawad post.
Alig Macabalang, Manila Bulletin