MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) placed two more areas under its control, less than a week into the May 9 elections.
In a speech at Camp Crame Wednesday, Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangaurangan announced that Misamis Occidental province and Pilar town in Abra are now under the poll body’s control for “security and safety concerns.”
The Comelec earlier placed the following areas also under its control: the owns of Buluan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Piang, Mangudadatu, Pandag and Sultan Kudarat in the province of Maguindanao, the City of Marawi, and the towns of Maguing, Malabang and Tubaran in Lanao del Sur.
Pangarungan called on residents in these areas not to be afraid, assuring that under Comelec control, their places will have “clean, honest, peaceful, and orderly elections.”
“[Comelec control] is designed to facilitate the freedom of each and every voter to cast their ballots without fear for their life and limb. Our troops and civilian officials, who all of you represent today, will see to it that your sacred right is protected,” he said.
The poll body’s chairman also called on authorities to “defend the sovereign will of the people,” as the May 9 elections “is the purest form of democracy.”
In areas under Comelec control, the poll body can reshuffle or relieve police officials and members, as well as task the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into any possible armed groups, acts of terrorism, or any threats to intimidate or coerce anyone to vote for or against a certain candidate in these areas.
The Comelec can also recommend to relieve any public official or government employee who may violate election law or fail to comply with their electoral mandates.
Further, the poll body can order that all provincial, city, and municipal treasurers in areas under its control to remain in the present assignments, making sure that no movements will be made before and after election day.
A strict gun ban will be implemented in areas under Comelec control. Certificates of exemption will be revoked during the entire election period.
Gun ban exemptions will only be made under “urgent and meritorious circumstances” upon the approval of Pangarungan himself.