MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) assured on Wednesday the filing of charges against Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) aspiring candidates or supporters involved in illegal or premature campaigning.
At a press conference, Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia said the poll body's action is not limited to the issuance of show cause orders.
"Kinakailangan may ma-filean tayo ng kaso, may ma-disqualify dito bago mag-October 30. Wala akong pakialam kahit isa o dalawa o daan iyan (We need to file cases, disqualify violators before Oct. 30. I don't care whether it's one, two, or hundreds)," he said.
Garcia reminded all candidates and supporters to adhere to election regulations.
"We have to institutionalize this culture of an honest and clean election... We have to institutionalize the mindset of everybody, more particularly, the candidates should be 'we have to follow the rules, we have to follow the law," he said.
The Comelec made the statement following the launching of its Task Force Kontra Epal, under the leadership of Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Nick Mendros.
As of Wednesday 1 p.m., the Task Force reported around 470 BSKE candidates allegedly involved in premature campaigning nationwide, of which 174 additional show cause orders have already been issued.
Mendroz said the Task Force has two procedures for addressing complaints.
First is the classification of verified and unverified complaints to ensure due process for each BSKE candidate.
For unverified reports, Mendroz said reports containing names of candidates and barangay locations are transferred to an evaluation team of lawyers for verification.
This shall be followed by sending show cause orders via email or other means, wherein BSKE bets have three days to respond upon notice receipt, he added.
Once the Task Force receives unsatisfactory answers from BSKE bets, a preliminary investigation will proceed after docketing a formal petition.
For verified or notarized complaints, Mendroz said these will be referred to the Comelec's law department for preliminary investigation, to be followed by case filing once probable cause is found.
Conviction may result in at least one year of imprisonment or a maximum sentence of six years.
Garcia, meanwhile, said election offenses have a three-year prescriptive period during which complaints can be filed.
"Kung di ka man na-disqualify dahil natapos na ang eleksyon, 'yung election offense tatlong taon pang pwedeng i-file from the discovery of the committed crime. Di ka pa rin ligtas, nanalo o natalo (If you're not disqualified because the election is done, the election offense charges may still be filed three years from the discovery of the committed crime. You're not yet spared, whether you won or lose)," he said.
The task force is yet to launch a formal email and hotline numbers for premature campaigning complaints.
The Comelec, meanwhile, said around 400 police personnel will be trained as a backup force for the BSK polls.
"Mayroon kaming ite-train na PNP (Philippine National Police) personnel, especially in Mindanao areas. Just in case mayroong isang lugar na hindi makakapaglingkod ang electoral board members, ang ating mga guro (We will train PNP personnel, especially in Mindanao areas. Just in case, there's an area where our electoral board member can't serve, our teachers)," Garcia said.
The official list of areas of concern is to be given by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to Comelec on Thursday.
The Comelec is also set to announce its decision either to pursue or defer the BSKE in Negros Oriental on Sept. 16.
On that same day, the poll body will discuss protocols for the Dec.9 special elections in the 3rd district of Negros Oriental to replace the vacant seat of former Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. (PNA)