By Leslie Ann Aquino
Despite the prevailing martial law there, two Catholic prelates in Mindanao are not in favor of again postponing the May 14, 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in the region.
Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez even believes that the prevailing martial law there would actually be of help in the conduct of orderly polls.
“Better (to conduct) because of martial law there are guards,” he said in an interview.
The prelate is also convinced that the martial law would not deter the electorate from voting especially in his diocese.
“Here (Marbel), no,” said Gutierrez.
Ozamiz Archbishop Martin Jumoad also expressed his opposition to the idea of postponing the village and youth polls in Mindanao.
“I am for holding barangay elections so that we can have new leaders,” he said.
Earlier, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced that it is set to conduct two public hearings on the issue of postponing the May 14 village and youth polls in Mindanao so as to give all interested parties equal opportunity to be heard.
This is in light of Resolution No. 13 of both houses of Congress to extend martial law in said region for a period of one year.
The public hearings will be conducted on January 22 at 700 Gov. Carmins Avenue, Zamboanga City, and on January 29 at the Alnor Hotel and Convention Center, Alnor Commercial Center, Cotabato City.
Aside from those mentioned, the Comelec is also eyeing to conduct a third public hearing in Cagayan de Oro City.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez meantime said there is still a 50-50 chance that the May 14 polls in Mindanao will push through given no final decision has been made yet on the matter.
He added that the public hearings are a matter of prudence.
“Calling for the hearing is simply a matter of prudence — if the situation in Mindanao warrants the extension of martial law, then there exists the possibility that conducting free and fair elections might not be possible,” said Jimenez.
“Prudence dictates, therefore, that the Comelec cares for the safety of the voters, the security of the election workers, and the integrity of the electoral process, and hears directly from the people actually living under martial law whether there exists any reason to doubt the viability of conducting free and fair elections,” he added.
It was in August 2017 when the poll body also conducted a public consultation in Davao City on the possible postponement of the October 23, 2017 village and youth polls in Mindanao to help determine if a postponement is necessary and also the scope of the postponement.
The following month, the Comelec decided to postpone the October village and youth polls in Mindanao due to the existence of lawless violence and rebellion there.
President Duterte eventually signed into law a bill postponing the October 2017 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections and resetting it to May 14, 2018.
Based on Section 5, Article 1 of the Omnibus Election Code, the Comelec may motu propio postpone elections in a particular location, after due notice and hearing therein, when the holding of free, orderly and honest elections should become impossible due to any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such nature.