Comelec won't put Abra under control despite withdrawal of 250 bets

By Stephanie Sevillano

October 26, 2023, 8:22 pm

MANILA – Despite the withdrawal of over 250 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSK) candidates, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it would not put the entire province of Abra under its strictest election classification.

In an interview, Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Rafael Olaño clarified that the withdrawals, which happened over the course of a few weeks, were not due to security issues but mostly voluntary and came following an agreement among community elders.

“As of now po hindi naman namin nakita na iyong Abra kailangang ilagay under Comelec control. Ang ginawa pong remedyo ng Comelec diyan sa pakikipag-usap with PNP and AFP ay dagdagan ng pwersa (We are not seeing the need to put Abra under Comelec control. What we did, together with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines is to augment forces),” Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Rafael Olaño said in an interview.

“Ito po ay sa buong province ng Abra… Sinasabi forced withdrawal daw pero ayon po sa aming pagpunta karamihan dun ay pinag-uusapan kasi may mga kaugalian sila na pinapadaan sa mga elders ang mga kandidato (That's the entire province of Abra... There were reports of forced withdrawal but when we visited the area, most of them had agreements because they have this custom where candidates are coming before their elders),” he added.

Olaño said in most cases, elders of indigenous people (IP) communities were able to convince candidates to give way and let other BSK bets run unopposed.

Olaño said the Comelec is monitoring areas like Bangued and Bucay to ensure peace before the Monday polls. To date, less than 10 election-related incidents have been recorded though all have already been resolved.

Still, he said an additional 150 police and military personnel have been deployed to maintain police visibility in the mountainous province.

“Contained naman, wala naman masyadong problema (It's contained, not much of a problem)," he added.

Overall, 22 verified election-related incidents in the country, which is still considered the lowest compared to past elections, have so far been recorded and mostly involved shooting.

The report also showed that the highest number of victims were incumbent barangay captains running for reelection.

"Iyan po ay kinokondena ng Commission on Elections, sana po ang ating pakiusap sa Philippine National Police at iba pang ahensya ng pamahalaan na in-charge sa law enforcement, sana kaagad po nating maaresto ang lahat ng pinaghihinalaan nating responsible dito (The Comelec condemns that, and we are asking our PNP and other law enforcement agencies to immediately arrest all of those responsible for these)," he said.

The Comelec is also set to implement curfew hours in Negros Oriental to ensure peace and safety from Oct. 28 to 31. In Libon, Albay, Olaño said there's no need to implement a curfew despite the area being under Comelec control.

Comelec Chairperson George Erwin Garcia said the regional Comelec and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have the power to implement such protocol for the orderly conduct of the BSKE.

Under the order, residents cannot go out from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., except for essential workers like call center agents and health personnel, among others.

Meanwhile, Olaño said 55 teachers have decided to no longer render services for the Oct. 30 elections due to either health or personal reasons. (PNA)