Comelec control over NegOcc town looms

Photo Courtesy: Police Regional Office 6 / FB page

MEMBERS of the Regional Joint Security Control Center (RJSCC)-6 on Monday recommended placing Moises Padilla town in Negros Occidental under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In an emergency meeting held at the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) satellite office at Camp Montelibano in Bacolod City, RJSCC-6 members signed a resolution recommending to the Comelec en banc to place Moises Padilla in Comelec control.

RJSCCResolution No. 02-2019, “recommended to the Comelec En Banc that Moises Padilla be placed under Comelec Control to be supervised by the Moises Padilla Task Force composed of representatives from the PNP, AFP and Comelec.”

The move came days after heavily-armed men ambushed Sangguniang Bayan member Michael Garcia and his nephew Mark Garcia at Brgy. Inolingan, Moises PadillaApril 25, 2019.

Mark was a former president of the Association of Barangay Captains of Moises Padilla and brother of incumbent Vice Mayor Ella Garcia who is running against her uncle, incumbent Mayor Magdaleno “Magsie” Peña.

Prior to the ambush, Moises Padilla town was already placed under Red Category of election watchlist of areas (EWAs) due to intense political rivalry and presence of armed groups.

It was one of the four towns, the other three all in Iloilo province, that were classified in the Red Category (Grave Concern).

Recently, two violent incidents occurred in the municipality involving candidates. In addition, the presence of the New People’s Army poses danger to the May 13, 2019 midterm elections.

“The incidents that happened in Moises Padilla satisfy the declaration of placing it under Comelec control,” said Police Brigadier General John Bulalacao, Western Visayas police chief.

Bulalacao explained that a certain area could be placed under Comelec Control on the following grounds:

  • History of/or current Intense Political Rivalry;
  • Area has been previously declared under Comelec Control;
  • Violence may be facilitated by employed Private Armed Groups(PAGs);
  • Use of loose firearms by unqualified individuals; and
  • Serious threats posed by terrorist groups.

Once an area is placed under Comelec control, the poll body has the authority to reshuffle PNP personnel; require the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into existence of PAGs and suppress and prevent acts of terrorism; and the COMELEC, through the DILG, has the authority to appoint any local government official to act as the officer-in-charge.

During the period, the PNP and the AFP will provide personnel, equipment, vehicles and other transportation facilities as the CBSFP requires.

An area could be placed under Comelec Control for the entire election period.

While waiting for the approval from the Comelec En Banc, the PNP and the AFP deployed additional personnel in the area to maintain peace and order and prevent further acts of violence that may take place as election nears.