THE 228,000-strong Philippine National Police (PNP) headed by General Benjamin C. Acorda is fully helping in the implementation of rules set by the Commission on Elections in relation to the October 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, the Journal Group learned.
Gen. Acorda has ordered his men not only to further step-up their campaign against loose firearms and partisan armed groups and strictly enforce the nationwide gun ban imposed by the Comelec but also called on all BSKE candidates to fully abide by the rules set by the poll body.
He said that a 24-hour enforcement of the prohibition on the unauthorized carrying of firearms and other deadly weapons across the country is necessary in order to prevent the flow of guns and other ‘instrument of violence’ that may be used to disrupt the BSKE campaign period.
Police to date have already accounted for more than 200 gun ban violators and over 100 firearms being carried by the arrested offenders.
During the May 2022 national and local elections, there were distinct Comelec rules issued during the campaign period, particularly those requiring all bets and their supporters to comply with minimum public health standards as prescribed by the Department of Health during the pandemic years.
The prohibited acts under the in-person activities during the May 2022 polls include entering private dwellings for house-to-house campaigning even with the owner’s permission, crowding, handshaking or other forms of physical contact, taking selfies or photographs that require proximity among people, and distributing food and drinks. The same goes for bigger campaign events.
However, the campaign rules are expected to return to the old ways now that the government has declared that the pandemic is over.
The Comelec set the BSKE election period from July 3 to November 14, 2023 while the campaign ban will be from July 8 to October 18.
The campaign period will be from October 19 to 28; the liquor ban will be from October 29 to 30 and the last day of filing of Statement of Contributions and Expenditures will be on November 29.
However, the Journal Group has noted that BSKE candidates have already been defying the Comelec rules on early campaigning as seen by the circulation of posters and tarpaulins of different candidates in markets, street posts, public utility vehicles and other public places as early as May this year.
The PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are watching ‘areas of concern’ including Negros Oriental and the Bangsamoro Administrative Region.
Based on initial assessments, there are already 27 areas under the so-called ‘Red Category’ or places that are at most risk due to incidents of poll-related violence during previous elections; 232 are in the ‘Orange Category,’ 4,085 are in the ‘Yellow Category’ and 37,683 are in the Green Category.
‘Orange’ means areas where there are serious armed threats while ‘Red’ means areas of grave concern as they exhibit combined factors under the ‘Yellow’ category with serious armed threats that may warrant the motu proprio declaration of Comelec control.
Gen. Acorda said they are particularly watching areas known for its history of bitter political feuds, presence of lawless armed groups, specifically the New People’s Army and partisan armed groups.
The PNP, the AFP, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Comelec have affirmed their commitment to ensure the safety, integrity and fairness of the October BSKE. All concerned officials have dedicated themselves to uphold the democratic processes of the nation during the BSKE period.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia has reminded the public that all public works projects have been prohibited starting last August 28, the first day of the filing of certificates of candidacy.
He added that all social services will also be banned from September 15, and all assistance to individuals in crisis situations (AICS) will be suspended from October 20 to 30. An exemption from the Comelec is needed for these activities to continue, he explained.
Garcia also announced three new projects that would be implemented during the BSKE, namely, mall voting in select areas, early voting for seniors, persons with disabilities, and the pregnant, and automated elections in three areas.
He added that local Comelec offices have identified alternative polling places for schools that were flooded due to recent typhoons.
According to PNP Director for Operations, Brigadier Gen. Leo M. Francisco, the PNP and the AFP are already implementing a nationwide prohibition on the unauthorized carrying of firearms and other deadly weapons as well as the employment of bodyguards during the campaign period.
During the 90-day election period for the 2023 BSKE, only members of the PNP, the AFP and Other Law Enforcement Agencies conducting actual performance of duties in their agency-prescribed uniform will be exempted from the gun ban.