By Hanah Tabios
As the crucial 2022 elections in the Bangsamoro government near, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Monday that it will be revisiting its existing rules and regulations to prevent the exclusion of vulnerable electorates in Mindanao.
At the forum on the Bangsamoro Electoral Code in Makati City, Comelec Director of the Committee on Empowering Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Teopisto Elnas said the initiative is necessary to define the inclusivity of the new Bangsamoro government which is set to elect its new members of parliament in three years’ time.
“We will be instructing our election officers to assess areas where IPs are there so that, as much as possible, we can set up voting centers right there and then, doon mismo sa (right in those) communities kung saan (where) these IPS are located,“ he said.
Elnas also vowed to look into allegations about some IPs being kidnapped and isolated in one area prior to the elections.
“On the day of the elections, they were escorted right in voting centers and dictated who to vote for. We want to look at all these so that [the] people [responsible] will be brought to justice,” he added.
The Comelec officer also stated the poll body’s willingness to join the interim Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government officials in the crafting of their election code. He said the agency can discuss the matter with them to formulate rules and regulations that will enhance the inclusion of not only IPs but also women and other vulnerable sectors in the southern part of the country.
Meanwhile, at the same forum organized by Cotabato-based think tank Institute for Autonomy and Governance and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Bangsamoro Transition Authority member MP Romeo Saliga said he hopes to strengthen the mandate of representation of IPs in the future parliament so as to further address and craft solutions to critical challenges in the region such as the expansion of the delivery of basic social services and land grabbing and dispossession of ancestral domains, among others.