By Dolly Yasa
BACOLOD City – Placing Moises Padilla in Negros Occidental under the category of election “areas of grave concern” has the support of Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, who lost two members of her family to election-related violence in the 2019 elections.
“For me, there is a basis for it,” according to Yulo, who signed the peace covenant in Moises Padilla Tuesday.
One of the advantages, according to Yulo, is that the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will focus on Moises Padilla to secure the people who will exercise their right of suffrage without being intimidated.
Moises Padilla, which was placed under Comelec control during the 2019 elections, was among the 18 towns and cities in Negros Occidental placed under “areas of concern” in line with the May 9, 2022 elections.
While there is no indication yet that the May 9 elections in Moises Padilla will be troublesome again, Yulo said they will not take chances, noting that a candidate is being supported by somebody who was among the reasons why the town was placed under Comelec control in previous elections.
A town or city is placed under the Red category, or areas of grave concern, if there is a history of election-related violence, intense political rivalries, presence of private armed groups and New People’s Army rebels.
Lt. Col Melvin Flores, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, who was tasked to secure Moises Padilla, admitted that he was disappointed that Moises Padilla was placed under Red category as the town is now peaceful.
In his speech during the signing of peace covenant, Flores rallied the candidates, security sector, Comelec and residents of Moises Padilla to prove that this is now “peaceful municipality”.
“Let us learn the lessons from those incidents” he said, apparently referring to the election-related incidents that occurred in Moises Padilla, in previous elections.
Two incumbent councilors and a former councilor of Moises Padilla were among the victims of election-related incidents in the town 2019, which also involved the New People’s Army and alleged private armed groups.
“Let us help one another to prove to the Filipino people that Moises Padilla is not in Red category,” Flores said.
Several policemen previously assigned to Moises Padilla had been dismissed from the police service, allegedly for their partisanship during the 2019 elections.
This will serve as a warning and a reminded to PNP that they should closely monitor the activities of its personnel, Yulo said.
Police Major Randy Babor, Moises Padilla police chief, yesterday assured the candidates and residents of Moises Padilla that the local police will stick to their mandate of being neutral in the election, and to enforce the law to anybody, without fear and favor.
Babor also called on candidates to cooperate with authorities and abide by the rules of Comelec in the conduct of clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful May 9 elections.
Asked about the present peace and order situation of Moises Padilla, Babor replied “so far, so good. Hopefully, its status will remain peaceful.”
The candidates of various elective positions pledged to focus on their respective platform of government and to refrain from attacking personal lives of their fellow candidates, to avoid vote buying, and all forms of election fraud, to be held accountable of their actions, among others.
Asked if there is a need to place Moses Padilla under Comelec control again, Yulo said there is no need, as of this time, after her consultation with the security sector and Comelec.
But she favored the deployment of troops in the town, as part of precautionary measures.