Despite the security concerns in Abra, the Commission on Elections-Cordillera is hopeful of an orderly barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) come Oct. 30.
Comelec-CAR Director Julius Torres said they trust the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to protect them.
“Abra had always been a concern, especially during the elections and year in and out. We can surpass the challenges. The situation in Abra is not indicative of the whole region,” Torres told journalists on the sidelines of the Regional Joint Security Control Center meeting at the Comelec compound in Baguio City last Oct. 23.
Julia Tabangin, Comelec-Benguet election officer, said the city has no security issues.
“There are no political rivalries, no intimidation and the candidates co-exist peacefully,” she said.
Apayao Provincial Election Officer Nicasio Jacob said the only issue they have is the difficulty of delivering accountable election forms due to the distance.
He said the province is probably the most peaceful in the region, both during election and non-election season.
Mountain Province Election Officer Atty. Ricardo Lampac said “peaceful” is the only word to describe his jurisdiction while Ifugao’s Ricardo Bulintao described their preparations as “honest, orderly, and peaceful.”
Dexter Barry Cawis, Kalinga election officer, said while there is a village categorized as yellow (with history of election-related incidents in the last polls and previously declared under the control of the Comelec), it has nothing to do with intense political rivalries.
Teachers from three precincts have withdrawn from poll duties in Barangay Mabongtot in Lubuagan due to an ongoing tribal war. They will be replaced by police officers.
M/Gen. Audrey Pasia, commander of the 5th Infantry Division, said they continue to conduct anti-insurgency operations in the whole Cordillera and adjacent provinces.
Mae Richelle Belmes, Abra provincial election officer, said the provincial JSCC approved Resolution 1 last week that increased the number of villages under yellow category from 13 to 40, and placed eight villages under orange.
Belmes said 94 police officers trained to serve as members of the special electoral board after 58 teachers opted to withdraw.
On Oct. 17, a candidate for village councilor was gunned down in Bucay.
There were also 254 candidates who have withdrawn their certificates of candidacy, were disqualified or who cited pressure from rivals, including 49 vying for village chief and 24 for SK chair. – PNA