A Facebook rant by a local netizen criticized the “general assembly” reportedly initiated by groups identified with the city administration in some barangays.
Photos of purported barangay meetings showed social and physical distancing protocols being disregarded, as well as poll survey forms being distributed.
According to two netizens who sent the same photos to Palawan News, but who asked not to be identified in this report, they were reportedly taken in several locations, such as Barangays Luzviminda, Mangingisda, Bagong Bayan, and Simpocan.
“Sobrang galing magpatupad ng social distancing sa pa general assembly niyo,” the netizen said in her post.
She said two days before the gathering, a COVID-19 patient in their barangay died, which was why she was worried.
“Two days before nag-gather kakamatay lang ng isa sa COVID [patient sa amin]. That’s why I freaked out,” she said.
Two barangay gatherings were allegedly conducted in two venues in Mangingisda on Saturday, October 16, according to the netizen. One was at the Mangingisda National High School (MNHS) and the other at the gym in the barangay hall area.
“If you really believe in the existence of the COVID virus, which I know you don’t, stop your nonsense assembly at pinapahirapan niyo lang po yong mga doctor, nurses, at frontliners natin who are truly fighting this battle against COVID,” she said.
Another netizen said the documents distributed were supposedly “survey forms”, specifically designed to gather information about people’s preferences for next year’s local election.
“Actually, nasa area din ako that time hindi lang ako nakapag-picture, nakabalot ng trapal ang gym ng Bagong Bayan,” he said. “Naghahakot sila [ng] gamit, mga bus ng city. Hihikayatin daw magpabakuna ang mga tao at COVID prevention”.
The source said the survey forms only had two choices for mayor and an incomplete list of those vying for positions in the City Council.
“Pero bakit kung survey form lang, eh, dalawa lang ang kandidato sa pagka-mayor?” he asked.
When asked for a response, City Information Office (CIO) head Richard Ligad claimed they are unaware of the gathering in Mangingisda, when it occurred, and if Mayor Lucilo Bayron was there.
He said they do not also know about the survey being conducted.
“Ang problema lahat yon daw. Hindi ko rin alam yan kung… ano ba yon? Sinong ano? Andoon ba si mayor? Hindi man natin alam, kelan ba nangyari yan? Tunay ba na nangyari yan? Ngayon ba yan? Hindi ko rin alam kung ano yan. Wala naman tayong activity na ganyan. Bago ba yan? Paano natin malalaman kung sino ang nandyan,. Kahit sino namang grupo puwede mag-ano, so magandang malaman natin saan ginanap yan?” Ligad said.
On the city government bus fetching residents allegedly for COVID-19, Ligad said their COVAC program is still rolling its vaccination campaign in the barangays.
“Meron tayong barangay vaccination, at kasama na doon yong ginagawa noong mga IMT na information dissemination. Hindi ko rin alam yong detalye kung saan ang mga schedule noon, pero malamang yon,” he added.
Meanwhile, according to Section 13 of Republic Act (RA) 9369 amending RA 8436, unlawful acts or omissions, such as what the photos depicted, are applicable to a candidate only upon the start of the campaign period.
In a post on Tiktok, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) spokesperson James Jimenez said those who filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) are not yet considered official candidates as of this time.
“Wala pang official candidates. Yong mga nag-file ng kanilang COC ay ituturing lamang na official candidate kapag nagsimula na ang campaign period para sa posisyon na kanilang tinatakbuhan. At dahil hindi pa sila official candidates, wala pa ring masisita sa kanilang ginagawa,” he said in his post on October 18.
He said that individuals who have already submitted their COC and are already campaigning cannot be cited for violations since there is no such thing as premature campaigning because they are not yet official candidates.
“Halimbawa, yong mga nagfu-fundraising, hindi mo rin masisita yan dahil hindi pa nga sila official candidates and the rules do not yet apply,” Jimenez said.