• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Nine mayors of the 25 mayors in Negros Oriental are pushing for the deferment of synchronized Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) by one month, in contrast to the stand of newly-installed Gov. Manuel “Chaco” Sagarbarria that it should be held simultaneously with the rest of the country.
The synchronized BSKE 2023 is scheduled on October 30.
In calling for its postponement, the nine Negros Oriental local chief executives cited the lingering atmosphere of terror that has plagued the province for more than a decade, with a history of prior harassment, killings, and acts of intimidation that has instilled deep-rooted fears among the voter, making them hesitant to stand against the powerful political machinery and the accompanying harassment tactics.
We firmly believe that this necessary action is crucial to address the peace and order concerns that have plagued our province, the nine Negros Oriental mayors, composed of Pamplona Mayor Janice Degamo, Dauin Mayor Galicano Truita, San Jose Mayor Mel Nick Logronio, Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remulla, Bindoy Mayor Eniego Jabagat, Siaton Mayor Cezanne Frits Diaz, Ayungon Mayor Dennis Amancio, Guihulngan City Mayor Filomeno Reyes, and Tayasan Mayor Susano Antonio Rupert, said in a joint statement.
They said that the recent tragic events in Negros Oriental, including the killing of former Governor Degamo and the massacre of nine individuals, have raised significant concerns regarding peace and security, noting also that many other killings and harassments have occurred in the past, with most of the perpetrators still at large.
The Commission on Elections is set to start a series of three-day consultations on the call to postpone the election in Negros Oriental from June 26 to 28.
Expected to lead the public consultations in Negros Oriental are Comelec officials, headed by Commissioner George Garcia, and the country’s top military and police officials
While he is against the postponement, Sagarbarria, however said if President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. decides to defer, he will support it completely.
The local leaders further said that the postponement will provide an invaluable opportunity to mobilize the full power of the national government, including the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Philippine National Police (PNP), to focus on strengthening security measures.
By dedicating resources and expertise to reassess and fortify security protocols, we can effectively mitigate risks and create a safe and secure environment for candidates, voters, and election personnel, they added.
Furthermore, it will allow for strategic coordination among various agencies, enabling seamless collaboration to safeguard the integrity of the special election to be held one month after the original date, the local leaders further said.
Given these compelling reasons, we respectfully urge the Commission on Elections and the relevant authorities to seriously consider the postponement of the Barangay and SK Elections in Negros Oriental, the mayors added.
The Visayas Command (VISCOM) earlier assured Negros Oriental local chief executives that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are ready to perform crucial tasks just to make sure that the BSKE on Oct. 30 will be peaceful and orderly.
Arevalo said VISCOM is constantly coordinating with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in establishing peace and security plans for the BSKE, especially in the hotspot areas amid the recent violence in Negros Oriental.
Based on the previous Comelec list, of 158 election watchlist areas (EWAs) in Visayas, 63 are in Region 7, mostly concentrated in Negros Oriental.*