Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ilocos Norte candidates sign peace covenant

Ilocos Norte candidates for the May elections sign the covenant at the St. William Cathedral. (Lei Adriano)

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff reporter

LAOAG CITY—A day before the official start of national elections campaign, local candidates with or without challengers showed up early Monday, February 8 at the St. William Cathedral to attend mass and sign the covenant for peace and cooperation in the coming May elections.

Officiated by Laoag Bishop Renato Mayugba, the bishop thanked all candidates for attending the mass and covenant signing initiated jointly by the Ilocos Norte Police Provincial Office, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the Commission on Elections.

“Your presence signifies your support. All of us dreams and aspires for peaceful elections. There shall be no room for selfish motive. Let us allow our people to exercise their right to vote freely and usher new and committed service to benefit the people we serve,” Mr. Mayugba told candidates and their supporters after the mass and the candidates made a pledge of commitment to abide by the rules of law.

“The city of God and the city of man can work together for the glory of God. Thank you for your cooperation with the activities of the church—the executive, legislative and the judiciary,” Mr. Mayugba said as he enjoined all candidates—unopposed or not to become a true model of good deed and public service above self.

Election watch list
Led by Ilocos Norte Governor Maria Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos, who is running for reelection unopposed, she urged fellow candidates to abide by the fair elections act and ensure peaceful and orderly elections.

Marred by several violations of election gun ban and controversy of at least three Ilocos Norte mayor-candidates from Solsona, Badoc and Bangui including two vice mayors from Badoc and Solsona who are currently suspended by Ms. Marcos for alleged grave abuse of authority and misconduct, the INPPO led by police provincial director P/Sr. Supt. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr., initiated the covenant signing at the Laoag Cathedral. 

As of press time, the Philippine National Police has already identified at least seven of the 21 municipalities and two cities here as a priority watch list in the upcoming 2016 elections.

The provincial police director said the police is closely monitoring the situation in these seven municipalities as they have also increased police visibility and the establishment of strategic PNP-Comelec checkpoints.

Based on a joint meeting attended by election officers and police personnel concerning security and elections preparations held recently at the St. Ignatius de Loyola Chapel at Camp Valentin S. Juan, this city, Atty. Alipio Castillo III, Ilocos Norte provincial election supervisor, said they have partially identified the towns of Bacarra, Bangui, Pagudpud, Vintar, Badoc, Marcos and Solsona as under election watch list.

According to Mr. Alipio, there had been previous incidents involving key officials and relatives of candidates in these municipalities that may provoke an untoward incident.

Should rivalries heat up, the police have already started instituting preventive measures. Some of these include the activation of provincial security control center, strengthening of community intelligence surveillance, conduct of checkpoints installed in strategic places, and inventory of loose firearms, including the continuing arrest of most wanted personalities in Ilocos Norte.

Based on the Omnibus Election Code, Mr. Alipio underscored that political candidates are not allowed to have police escorts except if they have apparent death threats and their claim is valid.

He added that with the lack of police personnel to maintain peace and order, candidates may opt to hire private security personnel, provided these individuals are qualified and belong to a duly-registered security agency.

Fair Election Act
During the covenant signing, the Comelec represented by Batac City election officer Josephine Balbas reminded all candidates to have a copy of the Fair Election Act which serves as the bible during elections.

“Anything outside the Fair Election Act is illegal. Please follow the prescribed size of election paraphernalia and the designated common poster areas,” Ms. Balbas reiterated.

Meanwhile, Department of Interior and Local Government provincial director Roger Daquioag wished all candidates good luck and “may the will of the people prevail.”

“Let us choose our leaders who can deliver public service. After the election, let us go back to work again in unity and commit ourselves to public service,” said Mr. Daquioag as he enjoined candidates to look at their counterparts and utter the words, “Kay ganda ng umaga kapag kasama kita,” with a smile. 

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