Mayor supports Moises Padilla under ‘areas of grave concern’

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Placing Moises Padilla in Negros Occidental under the list of “areas of grave concern” in the May 9 polls got the support of Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo, who lost two members of her family to election-related violence in the 2019 elections.

“For me, there is basis for it,” said Yulo, who was among those who signed the peace covenant in the town Feb. 8.

One of the advantages is that the focus of the Philippine National Police, Philippine Army, and the Commission on Election is Moises Padilla, in order to secure its people, who will exercise their right to suffrage, without being intimidated, she added.

Local candidates in the town of Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental led by incumbent mayor Ella Celestina Yulo Garcia sign a peace covenant Feb 8. The town was placed under Comelec control during the 2019 elections. | GB photo

Moises Padilla, which was placed under Comelec control in the 2019 elections, was among the 12 towns and cities of Negros Occidental placed under “areas of concern” for this year’s elections.

While there is no indication yet that the May 9 elections in Moises Padilla will be troublesome again, Yulo said they will not take chances as she noted that a candidate is being supported by somebody, who was among the reasons for the town’s placement under Comelec control in previous elections.

A town or city is placed under a Red category, or areas of grave concern, if there is a history of election-related violence, intense political rivalries, and presence of private armed groups and New People’s Army rebels.

Lt. Col Melvin Flores, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, who was tasked to secure Moises Padilla, admitted that he was disappointed that the town was placed under the Red category, stressing that the town is now peaceful.

In his speech during the signing of the peace covenant, Flores rallied the candidates, security sector, the Comelec, and residents of Moises Padilla to prove that this is now a “peaceful municipality”.

“Let us learned the lessons from those incidents,” he said, apparently referring to the election-related incidents that occurred in Moises Padilla in previous elections. Two incumbent councilors and a former councilor were among the victims of election-related incidents in the town in 2019, which also involved the NPA and alleged private armed groups.

“Let us help one another to prove to the Filipino people that Moises Padilla is not in the Red category,” Flores also said.

Several policemen previously assigned in Moises Padilla had been dismissed from the police service, allegedly for their partisanship during the 2019 elections.

This will serve as a warning and a reminder to the PNP that they should closely monitor the activities of its personnel, Yulo said.

P/Maj. Randy Babor, Moises Padilla police chief, assured the candidates and residents that the police will stick to their mandate of being neutral in the election, and to enforce the law to anybody, without fear and favor.

Babor also called on candidates to cooperate with authorities and abide by the rules of Comelec in the conduct of clean, honest, accurate, meaningful, and peaceful May 9 elections.

Asked about the present peace and order situation in Moises Padilla, Babor replied “so far, so good. Hopefully, its status will remain peaceful.”

The candidates for various elective positions pledged to focus on their respective platform of government and to refrain from attacking the personal lives of their fellow candidates, to avoid vote buying and all forms of election fraud, and to be willing to be held accountable for their actions, among others.

Asked if there is a need to place the town under Comelec control again, Yulo said there is no need, as of this time, after her consultation with the security sector and the Comelec.

But she favors the deployment of troops in the town, as part of precautionary measures, she added. – GB