Comelec wants no holdovers in Zamboanga villages.
Byline: Tina G. Santos
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) wants the postponed barangay polls in strife-torn Zamboanga City to be held by Nov. 30, the date the terms of office of the incumbent officials will end.
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said this was to prevent the incumbent officials from remaining at their posts in holdover capacity after their terms expire at noon of that date.
"Preferably, we would want the special elections held before Nov. 30 to avoid any holdovers," said Brillantes in a press briefing.
"We want to avoid holdovers because we might be blamed for favoring the incumbents," added Commissioner Robert Lim, chair of the Comelec's steering committee on barangay elections.
The Comelec suspended the elections in Zamboanga City's 98 barangays, originally set for Oct. 28 with the rest of the country, after the recent siege by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front that resulted in three weeks of explosions and gun battles that were put down by government forces.
Many residents were displaced by the crisis, which saw the burning of houses and voting centers, as well as deaths and injuries.
The Comelec said many polling places were still being used as evacuation centers and, to add to the misery from the assaults, floods recently hit the city.
In suspending the elections, the poll agency also considered the trauma experienced by the residents, and the difficulty in setting up voting centers and deploying election materials.
Lim said the special elections in the city would be held after clearing operations in areas affected by the siege are completed.
"[The military] said they need two to three weeks to finish the clearing operations. They are approaching [the areas] very carefully because there are many unexploded ordnances, hidden weapons and buried bodies," Lim said, adding that there was 70- to 80-percent likelihood the special elections would be held before Nov. 30.
"After the clearing operations, we would need around 19 days for the activities mandated by law, including six days for candidates to file their certificates of candidacy, 10 days for the campaign period, a day for the liquor ban, and election day itself," he said.
The Comelec, meanwhile, advised candidates for the barangay elections who had filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) to take down any tarpaulins, posters and streamers they may have put up or face charges for premature campaigning.
Brillantes said that candidates who had filed COCs could now be held liable for election offenses. "They should take down any campaign paraphernalia they put up before they filed their COCs," he said.