>> Sunday, October 24, 2010
BAGUIO CITY -- It’s all systems go for barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan in the Cordillera Oct. 25 despite devastation by typhoon “Juan.”
Commission on Elections regional director Julius Torres bared this Friday saying they recommended earlier the resetting of polls in the region but the Comelec en banc decided to push through with it.
This includes the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao, Mountain Province, Abra and Baguio City.
The regional Comelec earlier recommended the postponement based on lack of electricity and difficulty in transportation because of landslides and rockslides on most roads.
The Comelec also decided Thursday to push through with barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in Cagayan and Isabela provinces that were ravaged by typhoon “Juan.”
Poll officials, however, postponed the elections in the isolated coastal towns of Maconacon, Divilican and Palanan in Isabela.
The barangay and SK polls could be held in the three towns in November.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo held a consultation meeting Wednesday afternoon with officials of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
Melo said the Oct. 25 barangay and SK elections in the calamity areas will be held an hour earlier, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., instead of the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. regular poll schedule nationwide.
“The picture is bright because in the whole north, which was hit by typhoon Juan, except for three municipalities, it’s a go for other municipalities,” Melo said.
He said in municipalities where electricity has yet to be restored, voting would start at 6 a.m. up to 2 p.m., for local election officials to have an extra hour to count and tally votes. Half of Isabela and Cagayan still have no electricity.
Melo said that after the 2 p.m. closing time, voters who are within 100 yards of polling centers could still cast their votes based on Comelec rules.
He said the suspension of the barangay and SK elections in Divilican, Palanan and Maconacon was based on reports of the NDRRMC that the three municipalities were badly hit by Juan that destroyed almost all the infrastructure, including school buildings.
NDRRMC executive director retired Army Gen. Benito Ramos and other disaster management officials conducted an aerial survey of the typhoon-ravaged provinces Wednesday to assess extent of devastation wreaked by Juan, particularly to agriculture, fisheries and infrastructure.
Melo called on local politicians, especially those running in barangay and SK elections in the calamity areas, not to use the recent disaster to distribute relief goods and at the same time campaign for votes.
He also called on governors and mayors to exercise prudence and avoid being identified with any of the candidates in the barangay and SK elections while they are distributing relief goods to typhoon victims.
Melo warned poll candidates that sanctions could be meted on candidates found sticking campaign materials on bags of relief goods.
“They (candidates) could help their constituents but they must exercise prudence in all their actions as it might be violating the Election Code,” Melo said.
The Comelec said the poll body would deputize police officers to act as election inspectors in some areas in Mindanao where teachers refused to render poll duty due to fear of violence.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines assured the Comelec of its full support in the nationwide barangay and SK elections.
“While we are now engaged in rehabilitation operations in northern Luzon as a result of the typhoon, we are throwing our full support to the Comelec in connection with the Oct. 25 barangay and SK elections,” said Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body is confident that the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia for the barangay and SK polls would be delivered before elections.
The poll body hopes to deliver the election paraphernalia in advance to give the city and municipal treasurers and teachers serving as Board of Election Tellers enough time to prepare for Monday’s elections.