Press Release
May 10, 2023

Police, military support Tolentino's move to postpone Barangay, SK polls in Negros Oriental

MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have expressed their respective full support over the recent proposal of Senator Francis 'TOL' N. Tolentino to postpone the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in Negros Oriental amidst dozens of reported incidents of political violence in the said province.

"On the part of (PNP) Region 7, kung ano yung maganda para sa Negros Oriental na gagawin natin, we will support po yung move po na i-postpone yung Barangay Elections... para at least yung concentration at yung agam-agam ng community (ay mawala)," PNP Region 7 regional director P/BGen. Anthony Aberin said on Wednesday during the continuation of the Senate inquiry in connection with the assassination of the late governo Roel Degamo and other politically motivated crimes in Negros Oriental.

According to Aberin, the proposed postponement will definitely help PNP Region 7 to concentrate the vast majority of its personnel in securing the entire province, once the poll body finally decides to delay the scheduled polls in October.

Tolentino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, earlier urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) over the possible postponement of BSKE in Negros Oriental, considering the current political atmosphere in the province especially after the brutal assassination of Degamo last March.

For his part, Army Brigadier General Leonardo Peña of the Joint Task Force Negros stressed the need for additional troop deployment in Negros Oriental during the conduct of BSKE in the province, considering that it has a total of 557 barangays.

"More troops would be needed to really secure these barangays. So, if my unsolicited advice will be considered, mas maganda po sana yung may postponement (ng BSKE), so we can also request for additional forces coming from the other areas—para mabantayan po talaga natin itong 557 barangayas na maging peaceful po ang pagconduct ng barangay elections," said Peña.

Peña who used to head the Army's 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Negros Oriental noted about the augmentation forces from other Army units months before the conduct of BSKE in the said area.

"Na-augment to conduct checkpoint operations sa first and second districts of Negros Oriental... big number of military forces right now for a brigade to handle the situation," he added.

Meanwhile, during the same hearing, Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia said the poll body "is supportive" over recent calls to defer the Negros Oriental BSKE following the initiative raised by Tolentino in April, but he stressed that there are certain matters and so-called 'gray areas' that need to be ironed out before formally proceeding with the postponement.

The poll body chief explained that under Republic Act No. 6679, 'insurrection and rebellion' could be used as primary grounds in postponing scheduled elections in a political subdivision of the country, but Garcia noted that when to apply the said grounds is still in question up to now.

"Wala pong problema doon sa kapangyarihan ng Commission. Ang problema, kailan po ba dapat nag e-exist ang grounds na iyan? Puwede po ba nag exist ang grounds na iyan several months before the conduct of the election? Hindi po naging maliwanag iyon," Garcia said in response to Tolentino's query in connection with his suggestion to defer the Negros Oriental BSKE for 30 days.

"Pagka po in-interpret ng ibang lawyers... yung nangyaring violence, rebellion, insurrection, terrorism at such other grounds, dapat nangyari within the period, at least election period, na malapit sa eleksyon," he added.

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