The Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) has requested the Commission on Elections to declare the towns of Bataraza, Aborlan and Puerto Princesa City as under its control and supervision due to the reported encounters, ambush and presence of Moro National Liberation Front. The PCOC believes these activities pose threat to the peace and order of the province.
In a letter of PPOC dated April 22 addressed to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, it was stated that the establishment of an MNLF camp at Sitio Sawmill, Inagawan Sub-Colony Reservation and the sending out of armed groups are election-related activities.
The letter signed by Palawan Governor Jose Chavez Alavarez said that “the MNLF leaders may be utilized as part of the politician’s private armed group and the local members could be persuaded to support the political hopefuls who are upholding and supporting the establishment of MNLF camps in the province.”
“We have to be proactive. It is our responsibility. We cannot afford to add more election-related violence (in Bataraza),” said PCOC focal person Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta.
Atty. Matta admitted that their petition might not be sufficient in form but the Capitol is willing to comply if the Comelec En Banc says so.
Provincial Election Supervisor Atty. Percival Mendoza, in a previous interview of Palawan News, emphasized that he will not entertain the idea of placing Bataraza under Comelec control because the LGU will operate as if under Martial Law.
“Ultimate na ‘yun, kasi, pag sinabing comelec control, parang Martial Law na ‘yan eh,” Atty. Mendoza said.
Meanwhile, Provincial Comelec Spokesperson Jomel Ordas said that he cannot give the exact schedule as to when the request will be acted upon by the Comelect commissioners.
“Hindi natin masasabi, kasi direct na ‘yan sa Comelec En Banc, sila ang magdedesisyon,” Ordas said.
The town of Bataraza is now under Category 1 in the Comelec’s watchlist or ‘Areas of Concern’.
According to Comelec Resolution 10077, among the parameters in classifying a certain area as an ‘Area of Concern’ are the 1) History of/or current intense rivalry among the contending parties. Such rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts; 2) Violence may be facilitated by the employment of private armed groups; and 3) Abetted by loose firearms in the hands of unqualified individuals.
If there is a serious armed threat posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and rouge elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other analogous group, the category may be elevated to ‘Areas of Immediate Concern’.
If all the mentioned parameters are present, the Comelec En Banc has the power to declare Election Areas of Grave Concern or the ultimatum as Comelec Controlled Areas.
Under the same resolution, placing areas under Comelec controls means that the Comelec shall take immediate and direct control supervision over all national and local officials and employees are required by law to perform duties and comply with certain prohibitions relative to the conduct of the elections in the political division, subdivision, unit or area concerned.
The Commission will also exercise full control and supervision over all local and national law enforcement agencies as well as military officers and men assigned or deployed in the political division, subdivision, unit or area concerned.