PNP chief claims Comelec approved ballot destruction in Cotabato
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Police officer in charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. on Wednesday defended the policemen who were captured on video tearing up ballots on Election Day, saying their actions had been authorized by election officials in Cotabato City.
“We wish to reiterate our advice to the public to be wary of disinformation circulating on social media especially during this election period,” Danao said in a statement, adding that they had “fact-checked” the video clips.
According to reports from the police regional office in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the video footage was taken at the Datu Ayunan Elementary School, MB Kalanganan in Cotabato City on May 9.
The uniformed police officers had served as members of the Special Board of Election Inspectors (SBEIs), after the teachers assigned as BEI members backed out for safety reasons due to perceived threats.
The policemen were designated as SBEIs for Clustered Precincts No. 69 (Precinct Nos. 0215A, 0215B, 0215C and 0216A) and authorized by Nasroding M. Mustapha, Cotabato City election officer.
Based on the explanation of Cotabato City police director Col. Rommel Javier to the PNP, after the casting of votes around 7 p.m. on May 9, the policemen were “mandated to tear up the unused blank official ballot sheets” under Section 204 of Article XVII of the Omnibus Election Code.
But based on the videos, at least one of the ballots was shaded. The Inquirer reached out to PNP officials for comment but they said they are still investigating the matter.
According to the PNP, the tearing of ballot sheets was witnessed by Arfaj-Erven Ahmad, the designated Department of Education supervisor official, and watchers from political parties OneCotabato and United Bangsamoro Justice Party, which is affiliated with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The Commission on Elections said in a press briefing on Wednesday that it would tap the National Bureau of Investigation to ascertain the facts of the matter.
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