By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has placed the city under its control in the country’s first automated elections.
Ray Sumalipao, Comelec regional director, said this means that the poll body will be in control of election matters previously handled by local government officials.
Comelec based its en banc resolution 8887 on the presence of “serious armed threats” in the city. The order was received by the poll body’s regional office on Saturday.
In the 10-page order, Comelec cited the two petitions filed by the opposing political camps in Davao as grounds for the declaration.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who is running for mayor, filed the petition to place the city under Comelec control because of the unsolved extrajudicial killings allegedly by death squads enjoying the protection of local authorities. Nograles also cited the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly harassing unarmed civilians. The House Speaker is running for mayor against Vice Mayor Sara Duterte, daughter of incumbent mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Nograles’ archrival.
But Comelec also cited another petition, this time from Duterte’s camp. Former city administrator Wendel Avisado, a bet for the first district of the Davao City Council and a stalwart of the Duterte political group Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod, filed the petition based on the alleged plot to kill him and 15 other Hugpong members.
Former members of the anti-communist partylist Bantay and the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (Anad) earlier filed affidavits with the Comelec, revealing an alleged assassination plot against 16 officials of Hugpong that included Avisado.
Both the Nograles and Avisado camps cited in their petitions the series of grenade-lobbing that took place in the city weeks before the elections.
Authorities discovered improvised explosive devices in two places in Davao City on February 25 this year: one found at the ground floor of the City Hall’s restroom for women and another one along the sidewalk of Central Bank. The targets were believed to be supporters of Duterte.
Duterte also declared he wanted Davao City placed under Comelec control after he learned from the military intelligence community that retired major general Jovito Palparan Jr. had been frequenting the city.
Palparan, who is running for the senate, announced in December last year he would make Davao City the center of his campaign.
Whether he was referring to his running for senate under the anti-communist partylist Bantay or to the campaign against leftists in which he largely figured, Palparan did not make clear.
Palparan, however, blamed Duterte for the headway that the Communist New People’s Army has achieved in this part of the country. Except for Nograles who welcomed him, Palparan’s entry in the city was met with protests.
The Davao City Council in February passed a resolution declaring him and Anad Partylist Representative Jun Alcover as “personae non gratae” for issuing statements that “smeared” the reputation of the city. Palparan had been making public statements referring to Davao City as “breeding ground” of NPAs.
Sumalipao said a special Task Force will be created to supervise election related matters in the city.
The Task Force will take over the local government’s functions in the deployment of vehicles and other logistics, the disbursement of funds and the deployment of military and police personnel.
In Davao City, Lawyer Danilo Cullo, city first district election officer, Director Rene Asperas of the Davao City Police and Task Force Davao Chief Oscar Lactao of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will compose the special Task Force.
Comelec Resolution 8734 which provides the general rules for the implementation of the Comelec control order bestowed on the Special Task Force the discretion to relieve an erring military or police personnel and revoke or cancel permits to carry firearms issued to certain candidates.
In essence, the Special Task Force is the “law enforcement arm” in implementing specific orders, rulings, resolution and decisions of the Commission. The order is effective until the end of the election period unless the Commission lifts it sooner. e(Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)