MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is moving fast to proclaim the winners in Monday’s barangay elections with 91.49 percent of the 42,028 barangays nationwide already completed.
“We promised that this will be a fast-moving proclamation. Within 24 hours after end of the voting... so we expect to finish this all (today),” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said in a press briefing yesterday.
In a Twitter posting, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said winners in 38,452 barangays, out of the total 42,028, had been proclaimed as of 5 p.m. yesterday.
Teopisto Elnas, director of the Comelec’s Elections and Barangay Affairs Department, said polls still have to be held in 98 barangays in Zamboanga City and 1,109 barangays in Bohol province on Nov. 25.
Comelec was forced to postpone the village elections in Zamboanga City in the aftermath of the destruction caused by the three-week gun battle between government forces and the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front.
Most villages in Bohol, on the other hand, were in ruin following the Oct. 15 earthquake that left some 200 people dead and thousands homeless.
The polls were also postponed in 97 barangays across the country, mostly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) after teachers comprising the Board of Election Tellers (BET) refused to serve.
Meanwhile, the elections in 51 barangays in Lanao del Sur pushed through yesterday with policemen acting as BETs.
Brillantes said the police personnel have been trained to administer elections due to the threats of teachers not to serve in the polls.
“We had the teachers replaced so we were able to hold the elections in Lanao del Sur,” he said.
The Comelec had postponed the polls in 43 other barangays across the country primarily after the teachers failed to report to their assigned polling precincts for fear of their lives.
Comelec said 12 of the barangays are in Pikit, North Cotabato; three in Samar; three in Maguindanao; six in Basilan; and two in Tawi-Tawi.
The elections in 12 barangays in Calayan Island were also reset because of failure to deliver the election paraphernalia there due to bad weather.
Brillantes added the Comelec would be meeting to discuss when they could hold the elections in these areas.
Comelec is also set to conduct elections today in 26 barangays nationwide.
Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Bartolome Sinocruz said most of them are barangays in Samar where the elections were postponed because of violence.
The others are the seven barangays in Calayan Island, Cagayan; one in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte; six in Akbar, Ungkaya Pukan, and Tabuan Lasa in Basilan; and 12 in Buldon, Liong, and Parang in Maguindanao.
The Comelec, on the other hand, will hold elections in five other barangays in Calayan Island tomorrow.
Sinocruz added that the Comelec is eyeing to hold the elections in 12 barangays in Pikit, North Cotabato on Nov. 8. The polling precincts did not function after the teachers refused to serve as BETs, citing security concerns.
The proclamation of some 62 winning candidates for barangay posts, however, will have to be delayed due to questions on their eligibility.
Some would not assume office as they were found to be already on their third and final term of incumbency, according to the Comelec.
This brings to almost 500 the number of candidates who could have won, except those whose proclamation was suspended by the Comelec because of eligibility questions.
Brillantes said these bets have questionable qualifications so the poll body had notified the Comelec offices covering them to suspend their proclamation.
Brillantes said the 62 bets are all incumbent barangay leaders already on their third and final term but who still filed a certificate of candidacy for similar posts.
He said the Comelec would be studying the possibility of filing election offense charges against them.
Apart from the 62 bets, the Comelec had also ordered the suspension of proclamation of more than 300 candidates who were found to be not registered voters or whose voter’s registration was deactivated.
Eight other candidates have pending petitions seeking to declare them as nuisance bets while four others are convicted of criminal offense.
Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said the suspension order was done on their own initiative to avoid further complications in case these bets have been proclaimed and will eventually be found not qualified.
“Once they are proclaimed, we will lose jurisdiction on the cases. These will now be in form of election protests, which will take a longer time to resolve... This is our precautionary move pending the hearing on the merits of their actual statuses,” Lim said.
The Comelec is hoping to resolve the pending cases of these bets before Nov. 30 when the term of office of incumbent officials ends.
“If proven as disqualified candidate, the one with the highest number of votes outside of that candidate will be proclaimed the winner,” Lim said.
The Comelec in Negros Occidental said charges are being prepared against several candidates and their supporters for various election-related offenses like premature campaigning and on complaints of flying voters.
There were no problems in Pangasinan, however, as all of the winners in the 1,364 barangays in the province had been proclaimed. At least 146 of them ran unopposed in Monday’s elections.
Two candidates in a barangay in Pangasinan had to resort in a toss coin to break the tie.
“One of the candidates had refused to have it settled through toss coin but he cannot do anything about it. That’s the policy in breaking ties,” Sinocruz added.
Comelec also said all the winners in the Calabarzon region had been proclaimed.
“Almost 98 percent of the winners for barangay captains’ race in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon were immediately proclaimed by Comelec officials,” Comelec regional director Juanito Icarro said.
Hard to prove
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II also told a news briefing at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame that he had ordered the investigation of reports of vote buying in some areas of the country during the elections.
Roxas said the PNP is coordinating with the Comelec in the investigation of these reports.
Roxas though admitted the difficulty of probing reports of vote buying without any complaints.
“It’s really difficult to investigate,” he said.
“Let’s remember that vote-buying is done secretly so we need tips where these vote-buying activities are being done so we can act and respond.”
Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr. said the PNP had received seven reports of vote-buying: two from Region 12; two in Metro Manila; and one each from Regions 1, 3 and 4.
Candidates reportedly used everything from sachets of 3-in-1 coffee and noodles to cash payments of between P10 and P2,000 per voter to buy votes, according to reports.
Roxas said evidence from witnesses was important in resolving any alleged cases of vote buying.
“Without any witness the police can’t just enter a house. In the end the police might face charges,” he said.
“There may be a number of vote buying (cases), but the problem is we can’t get evidence. The person giving the money and the person who received the money will not file a complaint.”
Brillantes, for his part, doubted the reports of rampant vote buying during the elections. He said the media could have exaggerated the incidents.
He said scenarios of vote buying could have only been peddled by losing candidates.
“Our analysis is that there are many vote-buying (allegations) because many have lost in the elections... the source of the news (reports) are actually mostly (from) losing candidates who, they themselves, may have conducted vote buying but their rivals are richer,” he said.
Brillantes said public vigilance is vital in putting a stop to the practice of vote buying in the country.
“Vote buying is actually a very sensitive act and you need evidence to prove it. Mere hearsay won’t... they have to file a case, show evidence and execute an affidavit,” he said. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jonathan Carson, Eva Visperas, Ed Amoroso, Danny Dangcalan