By: Jessa Mae O. Sotto and Benjie B. Talisic, Nestle L. Semilla May 05,2018 - 11:06 PM

Law enforcement authorities will pay special attention on the town of Tuburan in northeastern Cebu as all of the six barangays in Cebu that have been included in the hotspots list are all in the town.

A week before the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections on May 14, the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) recommended the final list of villages in the province that will be put under Election Watchlist Areas (EWAs).

CPPO director Senior Supt. Edgar Alan Okubo announced yesterday that the six barangays placed under EWAs are all in Tuburan. These are Barangays Putat, Carmelo, Mag-atubang, Sumon, Monte Alegre and Gaang.

“Hindi naman ibig sabihin na approve na (This does not mean that these villages are already approved) but we have listed (and these are in) the final recommendation,” Okubo said.

The final recommendation was done during the Provincial Joint Coordinating Center-Comelec Conference (PJCCC) at the CPPO yesterday. It will be reviewed and approved by the Regional Election Directorial of the Comelec (REDC), said Okubo.

Category 1

Of the 54 barangays in Tuburan, Okubo said these six villages qualified in the “Category 1” of EWAs because of possible intense political rivalry and election-related violent incidents in previous elections.

In classifying areas as election hotspot, the Philippine National Police is guided by three categories.

An area is under Category 1 if the violent incidents or disturbances during the election period were purely political. Areas where threat groups are present fall under Category 2.

The last category is the combination of the Category 1 and 2. An area falls under Category 3 when there is a possible rise of private armed groups.

Okubo likewise noted the sightings of rebel groups in Tuburan in the past years, which further justified their decision to place six of its villages on the watchlist.

However, Okubo clarified this did not mean that the whole Tuburan would be put under EWA.

“Specific yung recommendation natin na only these barangays dapat natin bantayan ng maigi (The recommendation was specific that only these barangays should be monitored closely),” said Okubo.

Nothing new

For Tuburan Mayor Aljon Diamante, it came as no surprise that their town would be put on the watchlist.

In an interview with Cebu Daily News, Diamante admitted that election-related violence is not new in their town.

Diamante recalled that an ambush staged against his group during the May 2016 national elections killed one of his supporters.

He claimed that during the previous election, there were residents in their town who refused to cast their votes because they feared for their safety amid alleged threats from persons he declined to identify.

“Nangahadlok ang mga tawo sa pagbotar sa ilang gusto kay gihulga nga patyon (The people were afraid to vote for their choices because they were threatened with death),” he claimed.

As the mayor of the town, Diamante said he could only hope that the barangay and SK elections in Tuburan will be peaceful through the help of the police.

Other areas

Aside from Tuburan, four other towns in northern Cebu will also be closely monitored by CPPO even as these were not included in the list of recommended hotspots.

Okubo said there was an initial recommendation from CPPO to place certain villages in the towns of Daanbantayan, Medellin and Tabogon on the watchlist but these areas lacked justification to be placed under EWAs.

“Nevertheless, we will place those towns in our special concerns and monitoring (list). But they will not be declared as EWAs,” said Okubo.

In Cebu City, the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) has not identified any barangay to be placed under EWAs.

Senior Supt. Joel Doria, CCPO director, said no barangay in the city needs to be placed under EWAs.

“Wala tayong nakikitang barangay sa Cebu City na kailangan irekomenda since monitored naman lahat and peaceful naman yung mga barangays natin,” Doria told CDN.

(We don’t see any barangays in Cebu City that needs to be recommended for EWAs since we monitored them and the barangays in the city are peaceful.)

With the areas that need to be watched now identified, Okubo said their next step would be to determine how many policemen would have to be deployed to these areas.

He said the CPPO will be augmented by personnel from the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Central Command (AFP-Centcom) during the election.

“We already have commitment from the troops of Task Force Cebu. They have committed one quick reaction force (QRF) in every district and the separate islands of the province,” Okubo said.

Expense limit

As the campaign period continues, the Comelec has reminded candidates not to overspend to avoid getting penalized.

Ferdinand Gujilde, the election officer of Cebu province, said anyone who overspends could be disqualified from holding public office.

“If they cannot follow campaign rules on expense limit, how can we expect them to follow the law once they get elected,” said Gujilde.

Under the rules, a candidate could only spend P5 per registered voter in the barangay where he or she is running.

Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano, on the other hand, said candidates are required to submit their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) after the election, regardless of the results.

The SOCE is an itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures, including the full names and addresses of the donors and payees, and dates of receipt of donations or payment of money, respectively.

Any expenditures incurred in relation to the use of social media for campaigning, such as sponsored Facebook posts and production costs for campaign videos, must also be reported to the Comelec.

Overspending could be verified through multiplying all registered voters in their barangay by five, Gujilde said.

He cited as an example the case of former Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito who was unseated after he was found guilty of overspending during the 2013 midterm elections.

Ejercito had spent up to P23,563,365.28 for his campaign, which was more than the authorized spending cap of P4,576,566.

Based on Section 100 of the Omnibus Election Code, “no candidate shall overspend for his election campaign than the amount set by the law.”

Gujilde said candidates should serve as an example by following the law, especially those running for SK posts.

“They should take this opportunity to disprove the classic, stinging line that says ‘so young yet so corrupt,’” he added.

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TAGS: 6, barangays, hotspots, Tuburan
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