Caraga Reds declare ceasefire for barangays polls

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Caraga Region has announced it has suspended military operations against government forces during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

In a press statement, the NPA-North-East Mindanao Region said that in deference to the people’s right to vote freely during the polls, its local command has directed its units as well as its People’s Militia to “temporarily suspend the launching of tactical offensives against Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and CAFGU forces from May 14 until May 18, 2018.”

The NPA said the directive is in response to popular calls for the free, orderly and safe conduct of the elections being held today.

The communist guerrillas said that despite the “reactionary elections” controlled and run by big politicians, it hopes that the people could fully exercise their sacred right of suffrage without the influence and pressure on whom to vote for.

They also expressed hope that despite the torrent of money intended for vote-buying, intimidation and coercion, it is possible for “sincere and well-meaning candidates who truly serve the interests of the people to win in the elections.”

The NPA, however, cautioned that the reactionary elections is not the solution to the Filipino’s social problems.

“All the machinery of the reactionary government only function to serve their selfish interests and continue to gain back the victories attained as a result of people’s struggles,” the NPA said.

The NPA challenged the AFP, PNP, CAFGU and paramilitary units to desist from harassing voters and interfering in the elections, especially those encamped within communities or near polling precincts.

Meanwhile, the PNP has recorded 27 deaths and 20 election-related incidents a few days before the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls.

Last May 12, former La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel, 58, was assassinated while addressing a campaign rally in Barangay Capas in Agoo town.

In a visit to Butuan City on Saturday as part of his inspection tour of Mindanao before the elections, PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said police units have been alerted on potential vote-buying incidents.

The PNP has identified 5,744 election hotspots in the regions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte postpones barangays, SK polls

President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law last Monday the bill postponing the scheduled Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections from October 23 to the second Monday of May 2018.

Making good on earlier statements he will postpone the elections while his government struggles to rid barangays of narco-politicians, Duterte signed Republic Act 10952 amending earlier laws setting the elections on the fourth Monday of this month.

“When can we expect to have clean elections, free of the corrupting influence of the money from drugs? This year? I told Senate President (Aquilino Pimentel III) and (House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez) to tell legislators that if we hold the barangay elections now…patay (we’re dead),” the President told members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines last March.

“Since six or seven years ago, we were already a narco-politics state,” Duterte explained.

The law allows incumbent barangays and youth officials to stay in office in a holdover capacity.

The Commission on Elections for its part issued a memorandum Wednesday to all department directors and heads and election directors in Luzon and Visayas to suspend ongoing preparations for the elections.

“All activities in connection with the October 2017 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are suspended,” the memorandum, signed by Chairperson J. Andres Bautista said.

Mindanao, which is under Duterte’s martial law, was not mentioned in the Comelec memorandum.

Earlier, Liberal Party senators urged Duterte to rethink his plan to postpone the elections, to no avail.

“To further postpone barangay elections and opt to instead appoint the barangay officials means to impinge on the people’s right to vote and choose their leaders,” Senator Francis Pangilinan said in a statement last March.

Duterte, however, rejected the idea of appointing new officials for the 42,029 (as of June 2015) barangays in the entire country, opting to ask Congress for a law to postpone the elections instead.

“”It’s important that people are given that choice (of choosing their officials). And, palagay ko naman, ang taumbayan natin, may kakayahan na piliin kung sino ang mabuti at masama,” Senator Bam Aquino for his part said.

Aquino added he wanted both the SK and barangay elections to “push through,” saying it is the electorate who can remove officials who might be involved in illegal drugs from their posts and replace them with better candidates. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)