Comelec says to decide Negros Oriental barangay poll postponement by August

Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2023 01:45 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2023 03:00 PM

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MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said it would decide on a proposal to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) polls in Negros Oriental by August.

Comelec spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo that the poll body is expected to arrive at a decision on the proposed postponement when the election period begins on August 28. 

"Iyong kapangyarihan ng Comelec para mag-postpone ng halalan ay pumapasok lamang sa election period. So makakaasa po kayo na pagtungtong ng election period po ay may desisyon na po ang Comelec tungkol dito, unless kung magaganap po na pangyayari bago matapos yung aming hearing," he said. 

(Comelec's power to postpone elections only takes effect during the election period. Rest assured that when the election period comes, the Comelec will have decided on this proposal, unless there will be new developments after our hearings.)

But he also noted that if ever the poll body ultimately decides for postponement, the barangay and SK polls in Negros Oriental need to be held within 30 days from the original date of voting.

Laudiangco was reacting to a manifesto released by 9 Negros Oriental mayors on Sunday, where they expressed support for the postponement of the polls "to dismantle the culture of fear" in the province following the March 4 bloodbath that killed its governor Roel Degamo. 

Signatories of the manifesto include Degamo's widow Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, his nephew Siaton Mayor Fritz Diaz, as well as Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Remollo and other local leaders allied with the slain governor.

Comelec Chairman George Garcia, along with some poll body commissioners and local election officials, will be holding a series of public consultations and hearings on the proposed postponement from June 27 to 29. 

Aside from the consultations, Laudiangco said Garcia would attend a joint command conference in Negros Oriental with Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Andres Centino.

Laudiangco said the Comelec's decision would be based on its assessment of sentiments and opinions from residents and other stakeholders in the province, while also taking into account the manifesto issued by 9 of its mayors.

"Hindi lang po sina mayor ang tatanungin namin kundi ang taong-bayan po mismo at mga interest groups na nandoon sa Negros Oriental," he said. 

(We will be asking not only the mayors, but also the residents and interest groups in Negros Oriental themselves.)

Calls to postpone the barangay and SK elections in the province were first floated during a Senate panel investigation on the Degamo slay last April, after some residents came forward and revealed incidents of violence and harassment.

Meanwhile, Degamo's widow called on 15 of her fellow mayors in Negros Oriental to support the postponement, saying it would contribute in leveling the "playing field for everyone who desires to serve the public."

"Sana sumama rin sila sa ating hiling. I hope they feel us also, and the fear that we have in us," she told ABS-CBN TeleRadyo.

(I hope they join us in our call.)

"Iyong atin lang namang desire is for an honest, fair, and peaceful election to really happen in Negros Oriental," she added.

(Our only desire is for an honest, fair, and peaceful election to really happen in Negros Oriental.)