MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) placed under its control the town of Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, after violent incidents such as the killing of two reelectionist councilors during this election period.
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body issued a resolution on Monday, May 6, stating that recent events "clearly and convincingly show" that the area can be placed under Comelec control.
The Comelec has not distributed a copy of this resolution to reporters as of posting time.
When an area is placed under Comelec control, all national and local officials in the area will fall under the poll body's direct supervision. The Comelec will also be able to exercise "full control" over national and local law enforcement agencies, as well as military officers, assigned in the area.
The recent violent incidents in Moises Padilla include the murder of reelectionist councilor Jolomar Hilario in front of his family on March 31, and the killing of reelectionist councilor Michael Garcia and his uncle, Mark Garcia, former Moises Padilla Liga ng mga Barangay president, on April 25 in a campaign convoy in Barangay Inolingan.
The Garcias were The victims were nephew and brother, respectively, of Vice Mayor Ella Garcia-Yulo.
It was Comelec Commissioners Antonio Kho and Rowena Guanzon who declared the town under Comelec control following the decision from the poll en banc.
The entire police force of the town led by its chief, Captain Junji Liba, was also relieved. He was replaced by Police Lieutenent Colonel Adrian Acollador, who was also in charge of Special Task Group MOLAI (Moises Padilla and its adjacent towns, La Castellana and Isabela).
Liba was transferred to the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office headquarters while the sacked personnel were moved to the towns of Candoni and Hinoba-an.
The Garcia family had accused Moises Padilla Mayor Magdaleno Peña of masterminding the attack, an allegation that was already denied by the mayor.
Yulo is challenging Peña, who is her uncle, for the mayoral post this May 13 polls.
Thirty persons were already charged for the ambush and slay of the Garcias.
Charges that range from murder, double murder, to attempted murder were filed on April 26 before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office against reelectionist Moises Padilla Councilor Agustin Grande III, Joe Cezar, a member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT), five identified suspects whose names were not yet released by the police, and 23 John Does.
The prosecutor ordered the release of Grande from custody due to insufficient evidence for his warrantless arrest while it affirmed the validity of the warrantless arrest against Cezar.
Earlier, the poll body placed two other areas under Comelec control due to violence: the town of Daraga in Albay, and the City of Cotabato.
The Comelec also declared the entire island group of Mindanao and at least 3 other areas as election hot spots. Being classified as Category Red Election Hot Spots, as in the case of these areas, means the poll body can place these areas under Comelec control if the situation there worsens. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.