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Comelec: ‘Red’ areas of concern surge to 361 ahead of BSKE polls

Vince Lopez and Gabriellea B. Parino

The number of barangays under the “red category” list of areas of concern of the Commission on Elections for the Oct. 30 polls has increased by almost 50 percent to 361 from last month’s 242.

This developed as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Sunday that they would go on full alert at least three days before the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) on Oct. 30 and maintain this alert until All Saints’ Day.

In Comelec’s updated list, the additional 119 villages under the red category were from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

While being in the red category does not automatically put a barangay under Comelec control, among the factors considered are the occurrence of suspected election-related incidents, intense political rivalry, and possible employment of partisan or private armed groups.

PNP spokesperson and acting PIO chief Police Col. Jean Fajardo said the police would prepare for both events this week, adding that they have enough manpower for both.

She also said that PNP personnel were no longer allowed to go on leave starting the second week of December up until January 2024 in preparation for the holidays.

Meanwhile, Comelec said that around 3,000 PNP personnel nationwide are being trained to substitute for teachers who might withdraw from poll duty.

Comelec chairman George Garcia said teachers are not required to serve as poll workers for the 2023 BSKE, considering that it is near the All Saint’s Day holiday.

“We’ve expected even before that there will be teachers who will not serve on election day. We cannot oblige them, so we have also prepared PNP personnel to serve as substitutes for our electoral board members,” Garcia said.

He said some teachers, particularly those in Abra, have withdrawn as poll workers because they are related to the candidates.

Last week, the poll body reported that a candidate running for barangay councilor in Bucay, Abra was shot dead. There were also 122 candidates in Abra who backed out of the BSKE.

Also on Sunday, the poll body warned candidates not to use gender-insensitive campaign jingles or face disqualification.

Garcia said that the commission is aware of some candidates that play campaign jingles that are obscene or offensive, particularly in Nueva Ecija.

“We are aware of some candidates who are not being gender-sensitive. There are some who use jingles that are unpleasant to the ears and eyes of young people and children. Some of them are obscene,” He said in an interview with radio dzBB.

Garcia said a disqualification case will be filed against candidates if the subject jingles or campaign songs are not taken down within the week.

“It may seem funny because it is their way to catch the attention of voters, but we must always be gender-sensitive. This means that we should know whether what we use is offensive. This is a warning to them to take down their respective offensive jingles,” he added.

As of the 10-day campaign period given to BSKE officials which started on Oct. 19, the poll body has issued a total of 341 show cause orders against candidates who illegally posted campaign materials, Garcia said.

About 7,000 candidates were also issued with show cause orders for premature campaigning, while 200 of them are facing disqualification cases, the poll chairman said.

Ten candidates were charged with disqualification cases for alleged vote-buying.

Garcia said decisions on these cases are due to be released this week or before the Oct. 30 elections.

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