BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
No Comelec control for Moises Padilla, but the deployment of additional security forces is being welcomed for Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, whose two family members died in election-related violent incidents during the 2019 elections.
Yulo yesterday admitted that she was inclined to recommend placing Moises Padilla under Comelec control, in connection with the May 9 elections. After a consultation with Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer and the Commission on Elections, the mayor said she was told the current peace and order situation in Moises Padilla is not grave as before.
She also favors the deployment of more security forces in Moises Padilla as part of the precautionary measures, noting that there are still reports of a private armed group passing and monitoring their activities in the municipality.
Moises Padilla has been classified by the Comelec as an “area of grave concern” or under the Red category, due to history of election-related incidents, intense political rivalries, presence of private armed groups and that of New People’s Army.
The town was placed under Comelec control in previous elections.
For me, there is a basis for placing Moises Padilla under Red category, citing occurrence of election-related incidents in 2019, where her brother and nephew, died in an ambush, Yulo said.
An incumbent councilor of Moises Padilla was also killed by the New People’s Army inside his residence, prior to the May 2019 elections, according to the police.
The advantage of being under the Red category, according to Yulo, is that the focus of Philippine National Police, Philippine Army and the Comelec is Moises Padilla in order to secure its people, who will exercise their rights of suffrage without fear of intimidation.
While there is no indication yet that the May 9 elections in Moises Padilla will be troublesome again, Yulo said they are not taking chances, noting that a candidate is being supported by somebody who was among the reason behind that the town was placed under Comelec control in previous elections.
Lt. Col Melvin Flores, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, who was tasked to secure Moises Padilla, admitted that he was disappointed that Moises Padilla was placed under Red category, stressing that the town is now peaceful.
In his speech during the signing of peace covenant, Flores rallied the candidates, security sector, Comelec and town residents to prove that “Moises Padilla is now a peaceful municipality.”
“Let us learn lessons from those incidents” he said, apparently referring to the election-related incidents that occurred in Moises Padilla in previous elections.
“Let us help one another to prove to the Filipino people that Moises Padilla is not in Red category”, Flores also said.
Several policemen previously assigned in Moises Padilla had been dismissed from the police service, allegedly for their partisanship during the 2019 elections.
This will serve as a warning and a reminder to the PNP that they should closely monitor the activities of its personnel, Yulo said
PMaj. Randy Babor, Moises Padilla police chief, yesterday assured the candidates and residents of Moises Padilla that the local police will stick to their mandate of being neutral in the election, and to enforce the law without fear and favor.
Babor also called on candidates to cooperate with authorities and abide the rules of Comelec in the conduct of clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful May 9 elections.
Asked about the present peace and order situation of Moises Padilla, Babor replied “so far, so good. Hopefully, its status will remain peaceful,” he said.
Reelectionist Vice Mayor Ian Villaflor and Councilors Jimmiedon Plaza, Jose Morito Flores and Vincent Bryan Garcia, who are under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation and Moises Padilla Police Station, respectively, were among the signatories of the peace covenant.
The four incumbent Moises Padilla officials were escorted by NBI operatives and policemen in attending the signing of peace covenant in the town.
The candidates of various elective positions pledged to focus of their respective platform of government and to refrain from attacking personal lives of their fellow candidates, to avoid vote buying, and all forms of election fraud, and to be held accountable of their actions, among others.
Moises Padilla Election Officer Marcus Pelagio Cordero witnessed the signing of the peace covenant, while Rev. Fr. Romeo Daub, Rev. Fr. Francisco Anduyan, Pastors Eugenio Suficiencia and Gilmer Galanza offered prayers for the candidates and peaceful elections.*