MANILA—The Comelec on Saturday reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte's call for peaceful elections next year as the date filing of the candidacy neared.
Duterte, in a speech in Sultan Kudarat on Friday, said people should "really stick to the rule of law and avoid violence" for the 2022 polls.
Elections in the Philippines have been mired with violence, most especially in parts of Mindanao, with the proliferation of private armed groups peaking during the voting season to silence rivals, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had said.
But Comelec said it is cooperating "very closely" with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to make sure that the entire election season is "free of violence."
"The President’s call for peaceful elections is a powerful reminder to all would-be candidates and their campaigns, to reject violence," Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez said.
"In those instances where violent incidents threaten the integrity of the elections, the poll body has the authority to take such steps as may be necessary to address the situation, including but not limited to the imposition of Comelec control on specific parts of the country," he added.
On Nov. 23, 2009, 32 journalists were among 58 people who were killed and buried in a hilltop grave using an excavator after they were ambushed on a deserted highway in Maguindanao.
The Maguindanao massacre, as it is called, is considered the worst case of election-related violence in Philippine history and single deadliest incident for journalists in the world.
The group was on its way to file election documents of an Ampatuan rival, Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, who is now a Maguindanao congressman. His then wife was among the fatalities.
In 2019, members of the Ampatuan clan and several others were found guilty of multiple murder in the massacre.