By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan
MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos on Sunday ordered the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to ensure the implementation of orderly and peaceful voting of 31,125 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
“The turnout of more registered PDL voters for the BSKE is in itself historic. This underscores the commitment of the DILG and the BJMP to uphold democracy and inclusivity in the electoral process,” Abalos said in a statement on Sunday.
According to the Comelec rules, inmates who are formally charged and awaiting trial and those serving prison sentences of less than a year are qualified to vote in the local polls.
Abalos said the PDLs’ right to vote and choose their political leaders is a testament to the democratic liberty of a nation as prescribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Rights, and the 1987 Constitution.
“The right to vote is everyone’s inherent right under the Constitution. As the DILG actively assists the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in ensuring peace and order during the 2023 BSKE, we are elated to confirm that more than 31,000 PDLs will be able to exercise their rights to vote on BSKE 2023,” Abalos said.
Earlier this month, the Comelec signed a deal with BJMP and the Public Attorney’s Office on the implementation of PDLs voting for the BSKE on Monday.
Abalos, meanwhile, reminded the BSKE candidates to comply with all election laws, rules and regulations to ensure “orderly and clean elections.”
He said under Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code, candidates caught with vote-buying violations are subject to a prison sentence of up to six years and perpetual disqualification from public office.
Abalos also directed the police and other concerned government authorities to ensure the safety of passengers in the bus terminals on their way to their respective provinces to vote in the BSKE and to observe All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.
According to the PNP data, the number of validated election-related incidents (ERIs) climbed to 30 while 33 undergoing validation and 88 were classified as unrelated to the polls as of Saturday.
In a press briefing last Saturday, PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. said they are working closely with other law enforcement agencies to ensure a coordinated response to incidents amid the polls.
“We have been investigating all incidents but with regards to the alignment or deployment of forces, it’s still the same with the regional directors. These incidents would be the basis for the deployment of personnel or realignment of forces,” he said.
“In terms of monitoring, we are actively working with the Comelec. We have a data sharing pact. We have command centers in the national, regional, provincial and municipal levels, we have NEMAC (National Election Monitoring and Action Center), REMAC (Regional) and we have hotlines,” he added.
As of Wednesday, 361 villages have been placed under the red category; 1,252 villages under the orange category; 1,210 villages under the yellow category and 39,178 under the green category.
Since the start of the election period last Aug. 28, the PNP has launched 317,596 checkpoint operations supervised by local Comelec officers where a total of 1,454 firearms were seized from 1,992 arrested gun ban violators as of Oct. 27.
The PNP has also accepted 1,683 surrendered firearms and another 2,325 firearms deposited for safekeeping.
The election period for the BSKE will end on Nov. 29. (PNA)