CORDILLERA: A BENCHMARK FOR PEACEFUL ELECTIONS
Last Friday, as we immerse ourselves in presswork, the 45-day campaign period for local candidates for the May 2022 elections started. It is expected to be intense, yet exciting, to say the least.
This early, we wish all the candidates good luck while reminding them to take the lead in observing the minimum public health standards in their campaign sorties and other election-related activities in support of the go-vernment’s bid to keep Covid-19 cases at bay during this significant event in a democratic society.
Based on initial records of the Commission on Elections, more than 2,000 candidates are vying for more or less 900 elective positions in the Cordillera, broken down as follows: seven for congressional post, six for governor, six for vice governor, 77 for mayor, 77 for vice mayor, more or less 630 for councilor, and 58 for board member.
The campaign period in the Cordillera started peacefully with a unity walk and the signing of a peace covenant among candidates vying for elective positions in Baguio City, with two candidates for mayor displaying immense respect and civility towards each other while attending the activity organized by the Commission on Elections in partnership with the military and police.
As pundits put it, Baguio remains one of the most peaceful highly-urbanized cities in the country during election period with candidates showing respect to each other and without any threat of violence, making the Summer Capital a template for peaceful and orderly conduct of elections.
We also laud the provincial officials of Abra for participating in similar activities, a sign of a possible peaceful election in a province that was marred with election-related violence resulting in multiple deaths in past elections.
It is our hope other candidates in Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, and Mountain Province, including their supporters, will take an active role in supporting any initiative taken by the government and private sector that aims to ensure a peaceful, credible, and honest elections in this region.
But we must also warn the general public, especially the voters, against the proliferation of fake accounts or trolls that spread misinformation and disinformation, which by now is a serious concern that threatens the peaceful and orderly conduct of elections as observed in the past two elections in the country.
With 90 percent of Filipinos having access to the Internet and trusting social media more than mainstream media, it makes fact-checking a necessity, even as it is a major challenge to mainstream media whose duty is to ensure the majority of Filipinos get access to credible news and do not fall victims to misinformation and disinformation.
Fact-checking becomes even more challenging this election period with trolls spreading fake news to advance the political agenda of candidates vying for national and elective positions.
Given this disturbing situation that confronts this campaign and election period, the Comelec, in partnership with the anti-cyber-crime units of law enforcement agencies, must give their preferential attention to this now and in future elections.
Meantime, it is reassuring that elections in the highlands will be peaceful and orderly, with the greater number of candidates in the region giving a high regard to the principles of collective peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, and cooperation.