MANILA, Philippines — It’s final. This year’s barangay (village) elections in the island-province of Bohol will not be held on Oct. 28 as scheduled. Instead, it will be conducted “in a month’s time” by the Commission on Elections.
No less than Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. made the announcement after Monday’s en banc meeting of the poll body at its Intramuros, Manila, head office.
“Our target is within a month… We have yet to finalize the date,” he told reporters.
Brillantes said they had agreed to postpone the barangay polls in the Central Visayas province “so that there’ll be no more issues any more.”
Asked what issues he was referring to, he said they would “come out with the details and the reasons why in a formal resolution (to be issued) tomorrow (Oct. 22).”
“The reasons will be specified in a formal resolution tomorrow,” he said.
Brillantes had just returned from a weekend trip to Bohol where he conducted an ocular inspection of Tagbilaran City, the provincial capital, as well as the municipalities of Panglao, Baclayon and Dauis.
“There are too many devastated areas,” he observed.
That is why, he said, the poll body had decided to postpone the polls in the entire province.
According to Brillantes, the Comelec would release shortly a “calendar of activities for the new elections.”
“Many election activities will be affected. Campaigning, the filing of Certificates of Candidacy, election period and prohibitions will be covered,” he said.
Commissioner Ma. Gracia Cielo Padaca explained Brillantes’ “pronouncement and our decision are based on his personal visit to Bohol, where he’s able to talk to congressmen, the governor and vice governor, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Soliman.”
Padaca said they had arrived at the decision, noting the “Comelec needs to be sensitive about the Boholanos’ situation.”
“And also taking into consideration the logistical issues that may arise in the conduct of the elections (in the province),” she also said.
When interviewed, she recalled they earlier “received reports from the field (about the actual situation in Bohol and recommendations from various groups to postpone the polls). But the chairman needed to double check to the point that he had to personally visit Bohol.”
“That is why, we had this special en banc today to decide on the issue,” she said on Monday.
The Comelec en banc, she emphasized, all took into consideration the “frame of mind of Bohol folk because there are still aftershocks, as well as the readiness of public school teachers. Even the municipal treasurers that would take the election paraphernalia from the provincial office down to the municipal level.”
“Those were our considerations,” Padaca said as she expressed hope the Comelec would be able to conduct the barangay elections in Bohol “before the end of November.”
Last Friday, the Comelec said in a news release that during his trip to Bohol, Brillantes would “look into the conditions, not only of school buildings and warehouse facilities that shall house election paraphernalia in the province, but also the situation of voters that were affected by the recent quake.”
James Jimenez, the Comelec spokesperson, cited a report from the agency’s Central Visayas office, based in Cebu City, that “at least 536 school buildings in Bohol’s 22 municipalities were either damaged or totally damaged.”
“It was also reported that several school buildings are now being used as temporary evacuation centers,” he said.
The Comelec office in Region 7 earlier formed a task force, which also groups teams from the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to assess the situation in Bohol.”
Last week, Brillantes was quoted by reporters as having said that after reviewing the reports from the task force, “maraming issues na mukhang hindi maliwanag masyado (too many issues are apparently not clear).”
On Monday, he declared: “Basta postponed na ang election sa buong Bohol! (It’s set: elections in Bohol are postponed).”
Asked by a TV reporter why, the Comelec chief shot back, saying “Walang bakit, bakit!” (No need to ask why).”