MANILA (UPDATE) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) placed 2 more areas under its control, less than a week before the May 9 elections.
In a speech at Camp Crame Wednesday, Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangaurangan announced that Misamis Occidental province and Pilar town in Abra are now under the poll body's control for "security and safety concerns."
The Comelec earlier placed the following areas under its control: the towns of Buluan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Piang, Mangudadatu, Pandag and Sultan Kudarat in the province of Maguindanao, Marawi City, and Maguing, Malabang and Tubaran towns in Lanao del Sur.
Pangarungan called on residents in these areas not to be afraid, assuring there would be "clean, honest, peaceful, and orderly elections" under Comelec control.
"[Comelec control] is designed to facilitate the freedom of each and every voter to cast their ballots without fear for their life and limb. Our troops and civilian officials, who all of you represent today, will see to it that your sacred right is protected," he said.
The poll body's chairman also called on authorities to "defend the sovereign will of the people," as the May 9 elections "is the purest form of democracy."
In areas under Comelec control, the poll body can reshuffle or relieve police officials and officers, as well as task the interior department to look into any possible armed group, acts of terrorism, or any threat to intimidate or coerce anyone to vote for or against a certain candidate.
The Comelec can also recommend to relieve from their post any public official or government employee who may violate election laws or fail to comply with their electoral mandates.
Further, the poll body can order that all provincial, city, and municipal treasurers in areas under its control to remain in their present assignments, making sure that no movements will be made before and after election day.
A strict gun ban will be implemented in areas under Comelec control. Certificates of exemption will be revoked during the entire election period.
Gun ban exemptions will only be made under "urgent and meritorious circumstances" upon the approval of Pangarungan himself.
ALLEGED POLICE 'BIAS' IN PILAR
Pangarungan also told reporters that he placed Pilar, Abra under Comelec control after receiving reports that the police there were allegedly supporting a local candidate.
"I received confidential information disclosing apparent bias of a local police detachment sa Pilar, Abra," he said.
The poll body chairman added that some local officials and candidates there were receiving threats, prompting them to go in hiding.
Because of this, Comelec recommended to replace the entire Pilar police force.
"The instruction is to replace the entire MPS (municipal police station). I texted RD (Regional Director) Ronald Lee. We will take care of it,” Philippine National Police chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos said.
— With a report from Jeff Caparas, ABS-CBN News
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