DEPARTMENT of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año Monday warned national and local candidates of the NLE (National and Local Elections) 2022, especially the ones in 120 election hotspots nationwide.
The DILG chief issued a warning regarding using armed groups and “private armies” to intimidate and harass voters and other candidates as the DILG is committed to a peaceful and credible casting of votes.
“Stop using armed goons, stop using intimidation and force to influence the voters and other election candidates. Hindi natin sasantuhin kahit sino pa yan. The Philippine National Police (PNP) is committed to enforce the law completely sa kahit sinong lumabag sa batas, no fear and favor,” Año said in a joint press conference with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Following reports of possible violence related to the 2022 Elections, Año said that candidates must stop using violence and force to their advantage and influence the turnout and credibility of the upcoming elections.
“Binabalaan ko ang mga kandidatong gumagamit ng goons at private armies na itigil ang pagpapalaganap ng karahasan at panlilinlang para lamang makahikayat ng mga botante,” Año said.
He said that armed goons and private armies have no place in the conduct of the 2022 National and Local Elections – and the PNP will be on top of ensuring peace during the May 9 elections safeguarding the sanctity of the Filipinos’ votes.
“Doble-kayod ngayon ang Kapulisan upang mawakasan ang kalakarang ito [use of armed groups and private armies] katuwang ang Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] na tutukan ang mga areas of election concern,” Año said.
Based on the data of the PNP, 125 local government units (LGUs) are now classified as areas of election concern or hotspots in the country, and these were submitted to the Comelec.
Año said that of this number, 105 are towns while 15 are cities.
Meanwhile, Comelec Commissioner and Spokesperson James Jimenez was quick to say that the said 125 LGU election hotspots are due for validation of the Comelec regional offices.
He said that in coming up with the official list endorsed by the Commission, the history of election-related violence and conflicts; the presence of private armed groups; and the presence of activities that point to a possible escalation in the area are being monitored and considered.
The DILG Secretary likewise issued a stern caution to election candidates against vote-buying and encouraged the public to submit complete sets of evidence that will point to the perpetrators of the illegal act.
“Lalo ring dapat higpitan ng mga awtoridad ang pagbabantay sa anumang uri ng vote-buying at pinakaimportante na kapag magpapadala ng reports ang ating mga concerned citizens ay sana kumpleto na,” he said.
He explained that it is a common practice for complainants to send unverified and incomplete documentation, which, he said, will not stand.
“We are always looking at facts and data in investigating the veracity of these reports. Minsan kasi manipulated at ‘photoshopped’ ang mga ebidensya na pinapadala,” Año said.
The DILG Chief said that the Department supports Comelec’s “Task Force Kontra Bigay” (TFKB), adding that he will ensure that the said task force will execute its mandate to control and stop vote-buying, especially in communities.
“Kasama tayo sa TFKB at titiyakin natin na maisasagawa ang mandato nito. Wala tayong pipiliin kahit sinong kandidato ito, we will go after them,” he said.
Comelec Commissioner Aimee Torrefrance-Neri said that TFKB is a convergence effort of all the commissioners in Comelec, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the DILG, its attached agency, the PNP, and other national government agencies that will expedite all investigations against vote-buying.
DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan E. Malaya recently urged activation or reactivation of TFKB in all LGUs to counter vote-buying in localities, calling it one of the “biggest” blows in Philippine democracy.
Malaya said that the TFKB was first activated during the 2019 elections but was only implemented at the provincial level. For the 2022 elections, the DILG is proposing its activation up to the municipal level.
“Mayroon na nito [TFKB] hanggang provincial level noong 2019 [Elections] kaya puwedeng reactivation na lamang,” Malaya said.