MANILA — Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Monday said he saw no reason to postpone the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in Negros Oriental following his visit to the province over the weekend.
Abalos said the province has been relatively peaceful four months after the killing of its former governor Roel Degamo, citing comparative data presented to him by local police.
"Kanilang kinumpara ang crime rate ngayon at last year. Talagang malayo, talagang napakatahimik ng Negros Oriental, except that one incident... otherwise isusuma mo lahat, talagang tahimik," he told TeleRadyo Serbisyo.
(The police compared the province's crime rate now and last year. Negros Oriental has been quiet, except for that one incident... but if you look at the bigger picture, it's really quiet.)
He also told local officials in Negros Oriental to focus on the province's economic recovery, noting an apparent influx of tourists since the Degamo slay.
"Ang importante rito ay bumangon economically ang Negros Oriental. Nagulat nga ako dumami ang mga turista eh.... Nakita ko iyong eroplanong nakasabay ko, madami-dami na rin iyong turista eh." he said.
(What's important is Negros Oriental recovers economically. I was actually surprised that tourists have increased... I saw a plane that had a lot of tourists.)
Abalos also said that during his visit to Negros Oriental, he personally witnessed the change of leadership of the provincial police as Col. Ronan Claravall succeeded outgoing director Col. Alex Recinto.
As Claravall became Negros Oriental's top cop, some 100 officers from the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 7 were also deployed to the province.
"May bagong kapulisan ngayon, ito'y part of the reshuffling para wala masyadong familiarity of that place," Abalos said.
(The new police leadership is part of the reshuffling process so that officials do not have familiarity of a place).
The interior secretary earlier said he would continue to closely monitor developments in Negros Oriental.
Negros Oriental's peace and order situation has been in the spotlight since Degamo was assassinated last March, with his widow Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo citing this in her call to postpone the upcoming barangay elections in the province set this October. Eight other mayors, all of whom were allied with the slain governor, also joined in the call.
But the proposal was met with resounding opposition from other local officials during the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) public consultations on the matter held from June 27 to 29.
Comelec earlier said it would come up with a decision on the proposal when the election period begins on August 28.