My Legal Point
By Atty. Bayan G. Balt
We have heard of ballot shading one day before the elections, ballot’s boxes snatchings, clustering of poll precincts in one area to favor candidate, vote buying and others form of cheating perpetrated by politicians using goons and private armies to disenfranchise the electorate.
In line with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) constitutional powers as the premier guardian of the ballot, it may declare certain LGU under its control consistent with its principal role to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of elections, plebiscites, initiatives, referendums and recalls.
Section 3. Grounds for the declaration of COMELEC Control.
a. History of/ or current intense rivalry among the contending parties. Such rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts;
b. The area has been previously declared under COMELEC Control;
c. Incidence of politically-motivated violence involving aspirants/ candidates and/or their supporters;
d. Violence maybe facilitated by the employment of Private Armed Groups (PAGs);
e. Use of loose firearms by unqualified individuals;
f. and Serious armed threats posed by the New People’s Anny (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), or other paramilitary forces, private armies or identifiable armed bands widely perceived to have committed terrorism, fraud or other election irregularities and threaten or tend to disrupt the holding of free, peaceful, honest, orderly and credible elections in any political division, subdivision, unit or area” (Resolution No. 10501)
Recently, The Commission on Elections (Comelec) placed the municipalities of Tubaran and Malabang in Lanao del Sur under its control due to threats in the upcoming national and local elections, Philippine National Police (PNP) Directorate for Operations Major Valeriano de Leon said on Monday, April 18, 2022.
De Leon said the threats in the said areas were coming from the local terrorist groups, particularly in Mindanao and Bangsamoro regions, and they continue to monitor these to prevent any eventualities that will hamper the conduct of a peaceful election on May 9, 2022.
He said they have already deployed Special Action Force platoons in the said municipalities for intensified security operations. It was reported that there are other 11 towns under watch by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Resolution No. 10777 amends Res. 10728,
This Resolution granted powers to the Chair followed a 4-3 vote in the en banc, Chairman Pangarungan was supported by three other commissioners Rey Bulay, George Garcia, and Aimee Torrefranca-Neri. The new powers which is necessary to attend an honest, orderly and peaceful elections include power of the Chair to grant gun ban exemptions and place election areas of concern under Comelec control based on ‘meritorious and urgent cases.
Pangarungan earlier justified the powers given to him, promising not to abuse them and exercise them “sparingly.” “For example, if there was a shooting in Lanao del Sur, and many were killed, does it mean I have to wait for another week to convene the committee on the ban on firearms and security concerns (CBFSC) to declare the area under Comelec control? That is an urgent and meritorious case,” Pangarungan said in a press conference on Monday.
“I will only exercise that power upon recommendation of the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the chief of the Philippine National Police,” he guaranteed. The amended rules announced on Monday also moved to automatically exempt senior government officials from the gun ban.
Definitely, Comelec control when use timely and wisely will prevent elections fraud an effective weapon against cheating.
For comment at: email@example.com
Atty. Bayan G. Balt is the former Chapter President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, 2013-2015) Chairman of the Ranao Federal State Movement (RFSM) and President of the Alliance of Regional Coalitions Against People’s Poverty (ARCAPP).