REPORTS from our reporters and correspondents from various provinces in Bicol have confirmed that the recently concluded barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections were generally peaceful, with incidents of vote-buying in some areas notwithstanding. For sure, there were unpleasant and isolated violent cases that took place, apart from the low turnout of voters in many areas that no less than the Vice President of the Republic sadly noted when she cast her vote in her precinct in hometown Naga City last Monday, the Election Day.
Somehow, the people have triumphed in choosing for themselves the leaders worthy of their trust. Many say that the last political exercise was relatively fairer and credible with comparatively lesser dubious tricks that Philippine elections are notoriously known for. Maybe the stakes were not so high, unlike in the election for national offices and local officials such as mayor, governor and congressman.
From our news desk, it was reported prior to the May 14 election that the regional director of the Commission on Elections had called on voters to be earnest in choosing their barangay leaders because its outcome would be crucial in determining who will win or lose in next year’s national and local elections. Regional Director Maria Juana Valesa had warned that while she expects traditional politicians to interfere in the elections for barangay and youth officials as part of their political positioning in the upcoming national and local elections, she urged voters to stand up and gather evidence against election violators for them to be disqualified from further participating and running in future elections. Of course, that is easier said than done, but people should learn their lessons well and become more discerning in choosing their next governor or mayor. What is worse about vote-buying or casting our votes for a price is that while we already know who the buyers are, we still appear to be hopeless in ba
rring them from winning the elections.
Before last Monday’s elections, it was talked about that of the 3,471 barangays in Bicol, 350 barangays were classified as areas of concern, 431 as areas of immediate concern and 98 more classified as areas of grave concern where 92 of them are in Masbate alone. Despite these, however, “we decided not to place Masbate under Comelec control because the PNP and the Army’s 9th Division have enough troops and personnel to ensure an orderly and peaceful election in their assigned area,” according to Director Valesa. “While it may address intense political rivalry, placing Masbate under Comelec control may create a long-term negative impact in that province,” she added. As it turned out, the elections in Masbate was not as scary.
Meanwhile, we don’t know if we should jump with joy or just raise our eyebrows upon learning that as much as 60 barangays in 29 towns and two cities in Bicol did not have SK candidates during the last election. Twenty-three of these non-candidates are in Sorsogon, 20 in Catanduanes, 5 in Albay and only one in Camarines Sur. The rest are supposed to be in Camarines Norte and Masbate. These SK officials, based on our observations, have been devoured whole by dirty politics, instead of being trained as upright leaders. Many have attributed the lack of youth candidates to the anti-dynasty provision in the SK Reform Act of 2016 (RA 10742) where it states that SK candidates “must not be related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or to any incumbent elected regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official, in the locality where he or she seeks to be elected.” Shouldn’t this be the case also for our candidates in the upcoming national and local elections?