After Batocabe slay, Comelec mulls control over Daraga

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections announced on Thursday, December 27, that it is considering placing Daraga, Albay, under Comelec control.

This, after AKO Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe was killed while in a gift-giving event in the remote village of Burgos in Daraga on December 22. Two bodies were found lifeless in the same town the day after.

In a statement Thursday, the poll body said local Comelec officials recommended placing Daraga under Comelec control. According to the Comelec, perpetrators of the crimes remained at large and contributed to an "atmosphere of fear" in the municipality. 

In addition, the Comelec said local poll officials have expressed concern that the current situation could worsen political rivalries and lead to more violent incidents in the area.

Should this happen, Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said it "could conceivably undermine the conduct of peaceful and credible elections in 2019."

Because of this, the Commission en banc will immediately take up the recommendation, and will also take into consideration reports and assessments of the Philippine National Police done during its investigations into the killings. 

If approved, Comelec control of Daraga may take effect January 13, 2019 – or the start of the election period – as requested by local Comelec officials.

However, the Comelec said the Commission en banc may also set the effectivity to a date deemed "appropriate."

What happens when Comelec takes control of an area? All national and local officials will be under the direct control and supervision of Comelec. Government employees tasked with duties related to the conduct of elections will also be supervised by the poll body.

Aside from this, the Comelec will also exercise "full control" over all national and local law enforcement agencies, as well as military officers assigned in the area.

On Thursday, House Minority Floor Leader Danilo Suarez called for a "violence-free" elections in 2019, saying there is "no place for violence in the exercise of suffrage and democracy."

Batocabe's family and colleagues believe local politics may have been the motive behind the slay. Batocabe was running for mayor of Daraga. 

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier added P20 million to the bounty of the killers, bringing the total reward money to P50 million.

The police is currently investigating 6 persons of interest in Batocabe's slay. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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