MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday cancelled the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in 1,732 out of 42,025 barangays due to violence, late delivery of election paraphernalia and the aftermath of typhoon “Juan.”
The poll body will conduct synchronized polls in the affected barangays today, except in Divilacan, Palanan and Maconacon in Isabela as well as San Isidro and Salumague in Paniqui, Tarlac, which were devastated by the typhoon.
“Some 4.12 percent or 1,732 of the 42,025 barangays failed to function today and we have scheduled to conduct the election (on Tuesday),” said director Teofisto Elnas of the Comelec’s Election and Barangay Affairs Department.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo blamed the National Printing Office (NPO) for “not performing up to par because the printing presses are not very modern.”
Sources also said the Comelec is set to investigate some of its own personnel for possible sabotage of the delivery of election paraphernalia.
Melo said that the poll body did its best in its preparations. He called on President Aquino to declare Oct. 26 and 27 as special non-working holidays in the provinces where the polls were postponed.
“Well, what kind of preparation do we need? We are not satisfied in the sense that there was a little delay in the bidding (of election supplies),” he said.
Out of the total number, 1,599 barangays postponed their respective polls because of the Comelec’s failure to deliver the election paraphernalia on time.
Of the 1,599 barangays, 551 barangays were in Masbate, 321 in Albay, 315 in Catanduanes, 246 in Sorsogon, all in the Bicol Region (Region 5).
Police Director Benjamin Belarmino, chief of the National Task Force Hope Bravo 2010, said elections were reset either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Belarmino said other areas with postponed elections include Isabela with 87 barangays including the three barangays badly hit by typhoon Juan.
In Cagayan, 20 barangays reset the elections, 20 in Capiz, 19 in Pangasinan, 16 in Nueva Vizcaya, and two each in Aklan and Tarlac.
Elnas said that the teachers serving as Board of Election Tellers (BET) in barangays Butig in Lanao del Sur and in Datu Unsay and Datu Salibo in Maguindanao, “failed to function” due to poll-related violence.
Teachers who backed out in 29 municipalities in the two provinces were replaced by 1,090 new police recruits.
Comelec eyeing sabotage
Sources at the Comelec revealed that the late deliveries may have been the handiwork of some Comelec personnel who wanted to corner the more than P50-million budget for forwarding companies.
A Comelec source noted that the packaging of supplies had been “messed up” so that the forwarders would not be able to include them in their shipments.
“So what happened was that the forwarders no longer waited for the supplies because their other deliveries would be late. They made a systematic chaos in the packaging that only they can resolve. And in the guise of doing their patriotic duty, some Comelec personnel have delivered the supplies through their own contacts,” the source added.
Another source had confirmed that the Comelec would investigate the irregularity.
“We received information that it was deliberate. Maybe some Comelec personnel are involved or there may be outsiders that were able to do that. We’ll see,” the source maintained.
Among those to be investigated are some members of the Comelec’s Shipping and Packaging Committee, which was tasked to oversee the packaging and shipment of the paraphernalia.
The forwarders contracted by the Comelec to send the supplies include Argo, Ace, Xiemeu and Zip.
Another source, however, blamed the Comelec for the chaos in the election.
“For unknown reason, the Comelec did not create a steering committee or did not assign a commissioner to oversee the election. This is really not organized well,” the insider said.
Elnas said many polling precincts were still able to function although the paraphernalia came in late, citing a Comelec resolution stating that an election must be cancelled if supplies are delivered after 12 noon on election day.
The Comelec thought that election would not take place in Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur, but it pushed through when the paraphernalia arrived.
Party list AKO BICOL (AKB) scored the postponement of barangay polls in many parts of the Bicol region after election paraphernalia failed to reach numerous precincts.
“The Commission on Elections has a lot of explaining to do. When the truck transporting election paraphernalia to Bicol broke down in Quezon province, the Comelec didn’t have a contingency plan. It was a simple mechanical trouble that could have been easily solved. Why did the Comelec fail to hire a replacement truck right away?” AKB Rep. Rodel Batocabe said.
He stressed the Comelec should have announced the election postponement earlier.
“Teachers manning the precincts as chairpersons or members of the board of election inspectors have been preparing since dawn. Thousands of voters were lining up early in the day only to be told later that elections were postponed,” he lamented.
Reports reaching indicated that polls were postponed in the capital city of Legazpi, the province of Catanduanes and at least 35 other Bicol towns.
“Comelec’s ineptness has caused tremendous losses to the region’s economy in terms of lost productivity and income. Imagine, who would pay for the poll duty of teachers? How about lost business opportunities? Albay Gov. Joey Salceda even had to declare another province-wide holiday on Tuesday just so everybody can cast their vote,” Batocabe said.
To prevent another similar fiasco in the future, Batocabe said AKB will file a resolution urging the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms to investigate the matter.
Typhoon, delay caused postponement
Five of Bicol’s six provinces were forced to suspend the elections due to the delay in the arrival of election paraphernalia.
Lawyer Zacarias Saragoza, Bicol Comelec director, said the elections will push through at 7 a.m. today
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda issued an executive order declaring Tuesday as a special non-working no-class holiday today “to enable the smooth and orderly conduct of barangay and SK elections.”
Salceda said that special holiday declaration is urgent since Albay accounts for a significant 45 percent of total voting population and involves centers of education and commerce.
Areas in the province where elections were postponed include the towns of Bacacay, Malinao, Legazpi City, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Polangui and Libon.
The elections in two barangays, San Isidro and Salomugue, in Paniqui, Tarlac were also postponed because the polling precincts were still being used as evacuation centers.
In Dagupan, Pangasinan, 19 of 31 barangays were postponed due to shortage of ballots.
Lawyer Remarque Ravanzo, city election officer, said the polls were postponed in barangays Bacayao Norte, Bacayao Sur, Calmay, Tebeng, Barangay II, Lomboy, Mangin, Salapingao, Carael, Lasip Chico, Mayombo, Poblacion Oeste, Bolosan, Lasip Grande, Lucao, Pogo Grande, Salisay, Tapuac and Mamalingling.
Ravanzo said that around 40,777 registered voters were affected by the postponement.
He said the truck carrying official ballots arrived in the city past midnight yesterday and only about 50,000 ballots arrived.
Ravanzo said they are coordinating with Comelec officials to track down the more than 40,000 other ballots for the city.
Elections in over 50 barangays in six towns in three Cordillera provinces were also suspended but will push through tomorrow.
Comelec regional director Julius Torres said they moved the polls because it was impossible to deliver the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia.
Elections were suspended in Natonin and Paracelis towns in Mountain Province, which have 11 and nine barangays, respectively.
Paracelis is one of the hardest-hit towns in the Cordillera region when typhoon Juan pummeled northern Luzon.
Comelec also moved the elections to Tuesday in nine barangays in Lubugan and 20 barangays in Tinglayan towns in Kalinga. However, elections pushed through in Abra, Benguet, Ifugao and Baguio City even as voters faced several problems relating to landslides, power outage and bad roads
The Comelec, earlier, feared that the effects of Juan will render some dent to the smooth conduct of the polls.
In far-flung Batanes, the much-anticipated postponement did not materialize when the Comelec chartered light plane carrying the ballots and election paraphernalia arrived on time.
Suspension of proclamation is illegal
Meanwhile, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that the Comelec will be treading dangerous ground if it suspends the proclamation of winning candidates based only on the list submitted by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“To do so is a violation of due process. The law is clear that suspension of proclamation cannot be made without notice and hearing,” he said in a text message to The STAR.
The Comelec issued a resolution last Sunday that it will not proclaim any winning candidate in the barangay election who is included in the DILG list or “who has a disqualification (pending) case.”
The list pertains to candidates who have been sitting for three consecutive terms but still joined the Oct. 25 barangay polls.
Macalintal added the DILG list and the Comelec resolution have also been issued late.
“Under the law, resolutions of Comelec takes effect only after seven days from publication and since the resolution has been issued now, it will take effect on Nov. 1. Hence, the resolution is not yet effective,” he said.
Sheila Crisostomo, Philippine Star