President Rodrigo Duterte took a detour last Wednesday on his way to a campaign rally in Bohol to confront feuding local officials in Negros Occidental and, in the process, stopped a potential bloodshed.
Mr. Duterte herded the politicians and ordered them to avoid election-related violence.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who was with the President, said Mr. Duterte issued the directive to the officials as he presided over a security meeting held at the Moises Padilla Elementary School.
He said Duterte has been concerned about the ambush on 25 April that claimed the lives of reelectionist Jose Antonio “Michael” Garcia and his uncle, Jose Marcelino “Mark” Garcia.
The latter’s sister, Vice Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, is challenging the reelection bid of Mayor Magdaleno Peña, who is also a relative.
Last 31 March, Councilor Jolomar Hilario, also a reelectionist, was killed by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) inside his residence.
“The President said he does not want anyone killed anymore, from both sides,” Año said. He added that Duterte does not want lives wasted just because of politics.
“With that warning, I think we’re going to have good, peaceful elections,” the DILG chief said.
When he arrived in Bohol, Mr. Duterte recounted having confronted the mayor and made an address to all candidates running for public office to shun violence and let the people exercise their right to vote freely “or else they will face the full force of the law.”
“Well, there’s a certain mayor that’s really the suspect of everybody. So, I confronted the mayor. I talked to him,” the President said in his speech.
Año said the President talked to Peña and warned him against violence erupting again.
“The President said he will act accordingly if anyone will disobey his order,” he added.
Peña said Mr. Duterte told him that he wanted the elections in Moises Padilla to be held peacefully, and he replied, “Consider it done.”
“That’s what the President ordered… He wants peaceful elections, I said ‘You’re the boss. Done’,” the mayor said.
Peña added that he informed the President that the killings are perpetrated by the NPA.
“So, you just be careful… Allow everybody to vote freely. This is a democracy. This is an exercise of the right of the people to choose their leader,” he added.
Meanwhile, Garcia-Yulo, who also had a separate meeting with the Chief Executive, said Duterte assured her of justice and truth for the death of her brother and nephew.
“That’s what he promised, that justice will be served and the truth will come out,” she added.
The mayoral candidate said the President also ensured the safety of the voters during the elections on Monday, “because he believes that the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Under tight watch
The President, who arrived with former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, came two days after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) put Moises Padilla under its control.
The Comelec listed Moises Padilla under Category Red, being an “area of grave concern,” with a history of election-related incidents in the past two elections and intense political rivalry, with a serious armed threat posed by the NPA and other lawless elements.
Aside from Año, other officials who attended the meeting included Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza and top officials of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army in Western Visayas, led by Brig. Gen. John Bulalacao and Maj. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, respectively.
According to the President, public officials are mandated by the Constitution to obey the law.
He added that he remains committed to his promise of ensuring orderly and peaceful election during his time as president.
“It’s when you start to break rules… that’s when it starts to be a problem. Just follow the law and there would be no problem,” the President said.
PDP dominant party
The administration party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), has been declared as the dominant majority party for Monday’s midterm elections.
Based on Resolution 10538 promulgated Wednesday, the Comelec said the political party of President Rodrigo Duterte was named as such for getting the highest weight average points totaling to 55.74 points, after the computation done using its criteria.
On the other hand, the Nacionalista Party (NP) of former senator Manny Villar was declared as dominant minority party for getting 35.87 points.
Under the law, dominant majority and minority parties are entitled to get the fifth and sixth copies of election returns (ER), respectively, to be produced by the vote counting machines.
Also, the PDP and NP will receive electronically-transmitted precinct results; get the seventh and eighth copies of the certificates of canvass (CoC), respectively.
The parties are allowed to assign official watchers in every polling places and canvassing centers.
In the 2016 elections, the Liberal Party (LP) and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) were named as the dominant majority and minority parties, respectively.
Based on the criteria set by the Comelec, political parties that will field at least 30 percent women candidates shall be given the weighted average points of 10 points.
Big points for complete slate
A total of 40 points, the highest point to be given, will be based on the political group’s ability to field a complete slate of candidates from the municipal level up to the position of senator.
Other criteria include a party’s organizational structure (20 points), the number of its incumbent elective officials (20 points), and their established record in past elections (10 points).
The Comelec also determined the following as major national parties: LP, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), UNA, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), Workers and Peasants Party (WPP), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), National Unity Party (NUP) and Aksyon Demokratiko.