FOR most of us, election duty means showing up in our polling places a little over two weeks from now.
For others, the challenges stretch longer.
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) pledged yesterday to secure immediately the Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) when these arrive on May 5, 2016.
In a press conference yesterday on election contingency plans, Senior Supt. Benjamin Santos said the police will assign four police officers per polling center to guard it around the clock.
This means at least 280 police officers will be fielded to Cebu City’s 70 polling centers days ahead of the election.
When asked if there are threats to Cebu City’s elections, Santos said they have not received any intelligence report to that effect.
He pointed out that in previous elections, all 80 barangays in Cebu City were peaceful.
In Cebu Province, Senior Insp. Gerard Ace Pelare said they will establish command centers in areas placed on the Election Watchlist Areas (EWAS) list, for easier monitoring. He represented Senior Supt. Clifford Gairanod, chief of the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), in the press conference.
Among those on the EWAS are Bogo City and the towns of Dumanjug, Tuburan, San Fernando and three others, which the official could not recall during the conference.
“We would like to assure the public that the EWAS are being monitored and secured to prevent any untoward incident,” Pelare said.
Each voting center in Cebu Province will have two officers.
At least five police personnel in each station will take responsibility for regular police duties.
“We have already reviewed all security plans and there is no change so far,” Pelare said.
Meanwhile, Cebu City Election Officer Edwin Cadungog said that the Comelec has issued a resolution allowing police officers to enter polling places, provided they stay in a designated area to be identified by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).
Under the old rules, all police officers must be at least 50 meters away from the polling place.
But “what if the road is very near the polling center? The police cannot even pass the area. So, the school principal may designate the area for the policemen who are assigned to secure the polling place,” Cadungog said.
Cadungog also appealed to the voters to be patient.
The printing of voter receipts, as ordered by the Supreme Court, will stretch the process by at least 30 seconds per voter, or more than six hours for precinct with 800 voters.
Since April 9, both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been under Comelec’s control and supervision.
For now, “local government units (LGUs) no longer have any authority over the PNP. That has been devolved,” Election Supervisor Eliseo Labaria said. This also means that mayors can no longer issue orders to the police.
Under Section 52 of Republic Act 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government Act: “The city and municipal mayors shall exercise operational supervision and control over the Philippine National Police units in their respective jurisdictions except during the thirty (30) days before and thirty days following any national, local or barangay elections. During the said period, the local police force shall be under the supervision and control of the Commission on Elections.”
Aside from their election duties, the police have to keep enforcing the law, respond to complaints, conduct surveillance, launch raids, organize checkpoints, and arrest wanted persons and criminals.
Last April 7, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hernando Iriberri and PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez agreed on the guidelines deputizing both their agencies, to help Comelec ensure a peaceful and orderly election on May 9.
Under the AFP-PNP Joint Operational Guidelines, Joint Security Control Centers in all regions will be activated to oversee internal security and counter-terrorism operations by both agencies.
The public may also report violations of election laws, such as the firearm ban, to these security centers.