9 Negros Oriental mayors call to postpone barangay, SK polls amid 'culture of fear'

Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 25 2023 03:36 PM

Negros Oriental mayors pose after issuing a manifesto calling for the postponement of the barangay and SK elections
Negros Oriental mayors pose after issuing a manifesto calling for the postponement of the barangay and SK elections in the province on June 25, 2023. The mayors include Dauin's Galicano Truita (left), Dumaguete's Felipe Remollo (fourth from left), Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo (fifth from right), Siaton Mayor Fritz Diaz (fourth from right), and San Jose Mayor Mel Nick Logronio (right). Courtesy: Mayor Mel Nick Logronio Facebook page

MANILA — Nine Negros Oriental mayors on Sunday expressed support for a proposal to postpone the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in the province set in October, citing security-related reasons including a "deep-rooted fear" among the province's residents after the murder of Gov. Roel Degamo. 

The signatories of the manifesto include Degamo's widow Janice Degamo of Pamplona, his nephew Fritz Diaz of Siaton, as well as allies Felipe Remollo of Dumaguete City, Galicano Truita of Dauin, Mel Nick Logronio of San Jose, Eniego Jabagat of Bindoy, Dennis Amancio of Ayungon, Filomeno Reyes of Guihulngan City, and Susano Ruperto of Tayasan.

"Postponing the elections will allow us... to dismantle the culture of fear, instill confidence in the voters, and ensure a truly free and fair electoral environment," the mayors said in a statement Sunday, adding that the said fear was undermining the electoral process in Negros Oriental.

The postponement would also allow an opportunity to "fully mobilize the full power of the national government," including the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP), to focus on strengthening security measures.

"By dedicating resources and expertise to reassess and fortify security protocols, we can effectively mitigate risks and create a safe and secure environment for candidates, voters, and election personnel," the mayors said.

"This comprehensive approach will instill confidence in our constituents, ensuring they can exercise their fundamental right to vote without intimidation," they added.

The mayors also cited "the lingering atmosphere of terror" in Negros Oriental due to a string of harassment, killings, and acts of intimidation that has hounded the province for years. Some of these incidents were revealed earlier this year during a Senate panel hearing investigating Degamo's assassination, prompting senators to propose measures such as postponing the barangay and SK polls in Negros Oriental.

Even with the Senate panel hearings and extensive national media coverage in the months following the slay, the mayors alleged that "the underlying fear" still persisted in the province.

"The fear, though not only expressed, lingers within the hearts and minds of our constituents, making it challenging for them to exercise their democratic rights freely and without coercion," the mayors' statement further read.

Their manifesto came days before the Comelec begins its series of province-wide public consultations and hearings on the proposed postponement, with Comelec Chair George Garcia expected to lead the effort.

Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco earlier said the consultations were meant to assess the level of violence in Negros Oriental by listening to sentiments and suggestions directly from its residents.

The sessions will be held from June 27 to 29.


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