The special elections in Tubaran, Lanao del Sur proceeded smoothly as scheduled on Tuesday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.
Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said polling places in barangays Riantaran, Gadongan and Pagalamatan, in Tuburan town opened at 6:57 am, 7:02 am and 6:48 am, respectively.
In related incidents, the Philippine National Police said it had placed the entire municipality of Tubaran under full alert status as part of its security measures for the conduct of special elections in 12 of its barangays.
Maj. Gen. Valeriano T. de Leon, PNP director for operations, said the action was aimed at preventing any armed
groups or individuals from attempting to sabotage or influence the results of the special election for the more than 8,000 voters who were disenfranchised on May 9 for security reasons.
Meanwhile, Comelec said it would conduct special polls in a district in Cavite province should the House of Representatives declare a vacancy in the 7th District of Cavite.
“Whatever Congress decides, the Comelec is so prepared to conduct a special election in that particular district. We will wait for Congress. If Congress will say, we will fill up the position,” Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said.
Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla was re-elected as Cavite 7th district representative during the May 9 elections but accepted the offer as justice chief post of presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
However, the Comelec explained that Congress usually just appoints a caretaker so that the concerns of the district will be taken care of.
The special election in Lanao del Sur was set for the province two weeks after the May 9 national and local elections because of high incidents of poll-related violence there.
At the same time, despite the proposal for the postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, Comelec is preparing for these two political exercises.
During the Laging Handa public briefing Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said that the poll body is preparing for the village and SK elections set this December saying there is no such law signed yet stopping it.
In keeping with its mandate, the Comelec is continuously preparing but Congress should make its decision fast on whether it will again pass a law postponing the two elections before the poll body can print the ballots, he said.
Based on Comelec records, Tubaran has 11,557 registered voters for the 2022 national and local elections.
The Comelec earlier postponed the proclamation of the winning party-list groups due to the pendency of the poll results in the Lanao del Sur special elections, as this could affect the outcome of the party-list race.
Under the party-list law, a party-list group that gets at least 2 percent of the total number of votes cast in the party-list race will be entitled to at least one seat in the House of Representatives.
Those who exceed the 2 percent threshold will be entitled to additional seats proportionate to the number of votes cast, but the total number of seats for each winning party-list group cannot exceed three.
Those who do not meet the 2 percent requirement may still be able to secure a seat in the House because the party-list law also requires that 20 percent of House members come from the party-list ranks.
“According to our monitoring, there have been sightings of armed men in some areas, and my directive to our personnel on the ground is to ensure that these armed men are not given a single opportunity to carry out their nefarious plans,” De Leon, currently in Tubaran town supervising the security for the special elections, said.
“We have sufficient troops here in Tubaran, which were bolstered by our counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
The armed men are believed to be supporters of mayoral candidates, and de Leon said they are monitoring these groups, especially after an explosion a few days before the special elections.
At least 600 police officers and 400 soldiers were dispatched to Tubaran, according to PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr.
At least 52 police officers in these voting precincts are serving as Board of Election Inspectors.
Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas said the special elections in Tuburan smoothly opened with no reported untoward incident as of noon Tuesday.
“Congress could either legislate a special election in Cavite’s 7th district or designate a “caretaker” congressman for Remulla’s district should he finally accept the nomination and be officially appointed as secretary of the justice department under the incoming administration,” he added.
Garcia said the Comelec cannot conduct a special election without a law calling for it.
The Comelec will need to print 70 million ballots nationwide for these two elections and will spend billions of pesos for their printing alone, which will just go down the drain if these will not be used.
He said if the elections were to be postponed, they would have no problem with it since it will also be beneficial for the government who will save P8.6 billion which is the allocated budget for the barangay and SK elections.
The conduct of the barangay and SK elections is set on December 5 and the Comelec is left with just six months to prepare for it, Laudiangco said.
Meanwhile, registration of voters will start this coming July, as the Comelec reminded that the registration is not exclusive to regular voters but also to those aged 15 to 17 for the SK elections.
In other developments, a Comelec official said only 90 percent of the electoral board members have claimed their honoraria for services rendered during the May 9 elections.
At a press briefing, Comelec deputy executive director for operations Teopisto Elnas urged poll workers to pick up the compensation as the law gives the poll body only 15 days to settle the payments.
Aside from the regular compensation, the Comelec will give P2,000 in additional honoraria to each poll worker who encountered issues and delays during the 2022 elections.
The additional payment will cover 2,308 precincts where issues were reported during the elections.
Election Task Force Head Marcelo Bragado Jr. said at least 647,812 Department of Education personnel served as poll workers in the recently concluded elections.