Early elections loom in Masbate
by EA Ddelgado
Masbate City (17 February) -- Elections in restive Masbate may be held ahead of the May 10 balloting.
This distinct possibility will materialize once the Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolved to allow residents to vote at least a week before the general elections to ease the tension in this pistol-shaped island province, PIA Masbate has learned through documents and interviews with officials.
Lawyer Alberto Caņares III, acting election supervisor for Masbate, said he has been calling for separate balloting in the province, with a long history of election violence and rampant vote-buying.
Caņares stated that holding advanced elections in "hot spots" that include Masbate could prevent bloodshed and massive fraud as the poll body would be able to concentrate its security and administrative forces in those areas.
Some lawyers have claimed that the Comelec, on its own and without supporting legislation, can implement early elections in hot spots because of its broad powers in the Omnibus Election Code.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, the Comelec's powers during the election period are broad enough to allow it to cancel and reschedule elections in some cases.
However, top officials of Comelec said only a new law would enable the poll body to set a date ahead of the scheduled national and local elections in the nation's hot spots.
The two houses of Congress should pass a law for such advanced balloting to materialize. And they should have done it before they adjourned in the first week of February to give way to the election campaign period.
The early voting bill that was introduced in the House of the Representatives and the Senate called for separate balloting not only in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the site of the worst election-related violence in the country's history, but also in restive Masbate, where contending politicians have too many armed followers.
As described by no less than the PNP chief, Director General Jesus Verzosa, "Masbate is one of the deadliest and most dangerous places during elections as local positions are bitterly contested." (PIA Masbate) [top]