By Vicente Alejandro, VERA Files
TACLOBAN CITY – With more than a week left before the March 30 start of the campaign period for local candidates, the Commission on Elections in Eastern Visayas and the Archdiocese of Palo have called for a clean, honest and peaceful election.
“We call on the candidates and the voters to work together towards a peaceful election,” said Father Amadeo Alvero, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Palo.
The Palo archdiocese covers the dioceses of Borongan, Calbayog, Catarman and Naval.
Alvero said he hopes there will be neither cheating nor vote-buying and that people can vote freely and not be intimidated or influenced by money. He said the Church’s advocacy against vote buying is being carried out through voters’ education by its social action centers and the parish pastoral councils.
“Let us pray for a peaceful election especially that the campaign period (for local candidates) starts on the Holy Week...I just hope that they would not be campaigning in places where people pray and meditate like churches, the Calvary Hill...,” he said.
The call for responsible campaigning by candidates was echoed by lawyer Veronico Petalcorin, Comelec-8 assistant regional director.
“They must show to the people that they are responsible candidates by respecting the law,” he said, referring to the rules on campaign propaganda, which he says candidates have been informed about.
The Comelec has designated common poster areas such as plazas and barangay centers where candidates can post campaign materials and has set a size limit for campaign posters.
“How can we expect good governance, good officials if they themselves do not follow the law regarding election propaganda,” Petalcorin said.
Asked if violence would likely erupt during the election period, he answered: “We cannot predict … but we are ready for that. We have our police, the armed forces. We are determining areas where violence might crop up, (and these are) in areas that are highly contested, where there is an intense political rivalry.”
The poll official mentioned Samar as a potential flashpoint, but said the region is generally peaceful at this time.
“We we are looking keenly at these places,” Petalcorin said as he asked politicians and the people “to be calm, to be responsible enough during the campaign period.”
Earlier, the Philippine National Police released a list of 54 cities and towns in Eastern Visayas under its election watchlist areas.
These are places where violent incidents are highly possible because of intense partisan political rivalry and the use of armed groups by candidates (Category 1), and areas with a heavy presence of communist rebels (Category 2).
Listed under Category 1 are the Leyte towns of Bato, Inopacan, Kananga, Matag-ob, Tabango and San Miguel; the cities of Catbalogan and Calbayog and the towns of Daram, Gandara, Matuguinao, San Jorge, Sta. Margarita, Tagapul-an and Zumarraga in Samar; the Northern Samar towns of Gamay, Las Navas, Lavezares, Lope de Vega, Pambujan and Victoria; and Taft town in Eastern Samar.
Listed under Category 2 are the cities of Baybay and Ormoc and the towns of Albuera, Burauen, Carigara, Jaro, and MacArthur , all in Leyte, and the towns of Basey, Hinabangan, Jiabong, Paranas, Pinabacdao, San Jose de Buan, Sta. Rita and Tarangnan in Samar;
The Eastern Samar towns of Can-avid, Dolores, Hernani, General MacArthur, Jipapad and Quinapondan and the towns of Bobon, Catubig, Mapanas, Mondragon, Palapag and San Isidro in Northern Samar are also included under Category 2.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)