2 Lanao del Sur towns placed under Comelec control

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 19 2022 08:13 PM

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday it placed the towns of Tubaran and Malabang in Lanao del Sur province under its control. 

According to the office of Chairperson Saidamen Pangarungan, this was done through Resolution No. 1 by the Committee on the Ban on Firearms and Security Concerns (CBFSC) dated March 25, 2022. The resolution was signed by the Vice-Chair of the Committee, Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, as the Chairman of the Committee. Commissioner Socorro Inting was on official travel.

Inting later resigned on April 12, 2022 from the chairmanship of the committee after losing the vote on Comelec Resolution 10777. The resolution gave Pangarungan the power to issue gun ban exemptions and place areas under Comelec Control in "urgent and meritorious" cases.

So far, Tubaran and Malabang are the only areas the Comelec placed under its control. In the past, Comelec officials said they were reviewing recommendations by the Philippine National Police to designate some 300 areas as "areas of concern." 

Comelec Resolution 10757 says that when the peace and order situation in the area will affect the conduct of elections, the Comelec en banc may place any political division, subdivision, unit or area affected under its immediate and direct control and supervision. 

Comelec control includes immediate and direct control and supervision over national and local officials and employees, as well as full control and supervision over all national and local law enforcement agencies.

These are the grounds to declare an area under Comelec control: 
- History of/or current intense rivalry among the contenting parties. Such rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts. 
- The area has been previously declared under Comelec control.
- Incidence of politically-motivated violence involving aspirants/candidates and/or their supporters.
- Violence may be facilitated by the employment of private armed groups and serious armed threats posed by the Communist Terrorist Group and/or other threat groups.

"As for the Municipality of Malabang which witnessed a spate of killings recently, it has been declared under Comelec control pursuant to CBFSC Resolution No. 1 dated March 25, 2022 together with Tubaran which has a history of election-related violence, both in Lanao Del Sur. Because of this, swift measures to prevent further outbreak of violence are already in place," Pangarungan said in a statement.

The declaration was made amid reports of gunshots being fired in Malabang town. Pangarungan also said the Comelec will investigate several incidents of alleged election-related violence.

"I condemn the use of violence connected to the May 9, 2022 National and Local Elections. This commission will investigate reports of shooting both in Bukidnon and Lanao," Pangarungan said.

The statement also came hours after shots were fired during an anti-land grabbing protest which was attended by presidential candidate Leodegario "Ka Leody" de Guzman.

According to Pangarungan, the Comelec is offering presidential and vice presidential candidates additional security upon their request. They would have to specify how much security they would need. 

Comelec Resolution 10777 grants automatic gun ban exemption to the Office of the Vice President and senior government officials, along with two security details each. However, according to Resolution 10777, they only have until April 19 to submit the names of their security detail to the Comelec.

Meanwhile, Pangarungan reiterated his call for peaceful elections, as he noted that the poll body had been leading the signing of peace covenants in various areas of the country.

"These incidents of violence have no place in the process of our elections. This is why the Comelec has been more active in pursuing peace covenants and providing decisive action if threats that disturb a peaceful election arise," he said.