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3-week transition for poll winners

Charles Dantes & Vito Barcelo

DILG takes over process as proclamation done in 92% of brgys

While winners have been proclaimed in 92 percent of all barangays, the newly elected village officials may take up to three weeks before taking over to ensure a smooth transition, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Tuesday.

President Marcos, meanwhile, told the newly elected barangay and youth council officials to serve the people wholeheartedly and to be honest at all times.

“This is another opportunity to serve the Filipinos and our country with all your heart and beyond your abilities,” the President said, speaking in Filipino in a short congratulatory video message. “Be faithful at all times. Always put the welfare of the people first because they are the reason why we want to serve the nation.”

In a memo issued Tuesday, the DILG said a maximum three-week period for newly elected barangay leaders would “ensure the smooth transition of governance and accountabilities.”

“You still have to reorganize your barangay, you have to appoint a treasurer, you have to appoint a secretary, you have to hold a meeting, and you have to have a resolution, and then you have to post a bond. That takes time,” said DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. “And then you have to apply with a bank… We came up with that period… This is the maximum. You can go earlier. If you do it in one week, that’s okay.”

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman George Garcia said they expected a voter turnout of 70 percent to 75 percent for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE), slightly higher than the 70 to 71 percent in 2018.

The Comelec said that 38,000 candidates or about 92.7 percent of the winners have been proclaimed as of Tuesday afternoon.

Garcia said most barangays nationwide have already completed the canvassing of votes and proclamation of winning candidates.

“Election ballots in 41,249 precincts nationwide have already been canvassed, representing 98.21 percent of the total 42,001 precincts,” he said.

Metro Manila, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Bicol Region, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao have all finished canvassing BSKE votes.

Garcia said certain precincts have yet to proclaim winners because candidates were tied in the vote count. In these cases, regional directors have been told to decide the winners by drawing lots or tossing a coin.

“We should proclaim the winning candidates at all costs today. It cannot be prolonged or postponed any further,” the poll chief said.

The Comelec has filed 27 cases related to vote-buying. Forty-six more are still for filing, and 154 are for validation and most likely will result in the filing of cases.

At the same time, the Comelec said it is contemplating filing criminal and administrative charges against teachers and police officers who backed out of poll duty at the last minute.

“If we study the Omnibus Election Code, it is a criminal offense and an administrative offense at the same time. We cannot just let it go because it will happen over and over again,” he said.

“More than 2,500 teachers backed out of serving as poll watchers in the BSKE, the majority [of them] in the Bangsamoro region,” he said.

“It would be fine if you withdraw before Election Day because election service is not mandatory. But if you already trained, and we already spent for training, then on Election Day, you will withdraw from poll service… And worse, even the replacements also withdrew, Garcia said.

The Comelec chief said he was not satisfied with the explanations given for the last-minute pullouts.

“The same thing is happening in the same areas again and again. The script never changes,” he said.

In the Bicol region, 10 electoral board members were also reported to have backed out of their duties.

Garcia reported that 29 volunteers in Abra, which he had deemed a critical area, had also withdrawn from rendering election service.

A common reason for withdrawing was fear of election violence.

The Comelec on Tuesday said 19 people were killed and 19 others were injured during the BSKE this year.

Comelec spokesperson Rex Laudiangco said the deaths and injuries stemmed from 29 validated election-related incidents recorded from Aug. 28 to Oct. 30, while ii is still investigating 113 cases of violence to determine if these are connected to the elections.

“Most of these fatalities occurred in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which he said has the “most tension and most red areas of concern,” Laudiangco said in an interview with CNN.

On the whole, however, the Comelec described the long-delayed Barangay and SK polls as “generally peaceful.”

Police earlier said two people were killed and five others were wounded outside a polling station in Maguindanao del Norte province.

The shootout happened during a confrontation between supporters of rival candidates for village captain, said Datu Odin Sinsuat municipality police chief Lt. Col. Esmail Madin.

In another incident in Mindanao, a woman was killed when a gunfight broke out after a van carrying a village captain and her supporters was stopped on a road by people backing her rival in Lanao del Norte province, the army said.

The husband of a village captain in Lanao del Sur province died after he was shot in the chest during a confrontation with his wife’s rival, police said.

Laudiangco said the Comelec had expected that the first BSKE to be held in five years would “be more heated.”

Still, he said this year’s figures on election-related violence were lower than those in 2018.

The poll body placed 365 barangays under the “red category” or the highest category for areas of concern ahead of the local elections.

“We really have to improve the situation. We have to normalize the elections to the people so that they do not result in any form of violence,” Laudiangco said.

Garcia said the recently concluded elections were generally peaceful, saying only a fraction of the 202,000 precincts experienced any disruptions.

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