Belle Marjorie A. dela Vega and Janica M. Gan
Local candidates of Los Baños signed a peace covenant at the Municipal Covered Court on the morning of February 16, 2013 to support the ‘Secure And Fair Election 2013’ (SAFE 2013) during the activity organized by the Los Baños Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Ang peace covenant ay isinasagawa sa layuning maipakita sa mga mamamayan at kandidato na ang kapulisan ay handang tumulong o gawin ang kanilang tungkulin para mapanatili ang mapayapa, ligtas, at patas na eleksyon,” said Police Chief Inspector Conrado T. Masongsong, the Police Chief of Los Baños PNP.
Police Chief Masongsong added that the peace covenant aims to open the eyes of the candidates and people that election is not a game but an activity that needs more focus from the police and the COMELEC.
Randy P. Banzuela, the COMELEC municipal election officer reminded the candidates as well as the residents who witnessed the program of the rules and regulation in campaigning which started on January 12 and will last until May 11. “Kung kayo’y may kaalaman, meron kayong karapatan na makialam,” he said.
“Hindi po ito para sa kanila (candidates), ito pong eleksyon ay para sa mamamayan ng Los Banos. […] Ang nais po ng komisyon, pati ng kapulisan, pati na ang lahat ng mga certified agency ng gobyerno; ang hangad po nila ay makasama kayo sa pagpapanatili ng kapayapaan at maging secure ang inyong boto sa darating na halalan,” Banzuela encouraged citizen participation for a clean election.
Banzuela announced that COMELEC has updated its official list of voters. The dead, transferred, and deactivated voters, who failed to vote for two consecutive elections are marked off the list. This is to deter those with unfair motives and to assure the public of honest election proceedings from COMELEC.
The speakers of the said event encouraged the candidates and the witnesses to have a peaceful election. This includes spiritual leaders Rev. Fr. Zalde Fortuno, Parish Priest Ptr. Angel Sumague from Lakas Angkan Ministry, and Imam Ibrahilm Lomondot of the Los Baños Moslem community.
In attendance was four out of five mayoral candidates, the two vice mayoral candidates, and 21 out 25 candidates running for councilors. The large turnout of the candidates satisfied Masongsong who said, “Sana naman kung ano yung pinirmahan nila at pinanumpaan nila, dapat sundin nila. Pag ‘yan nasunod, success ang ating election- walang magtatampo, walang magrereklamo at tatanggapin natin ng buong-buo kung sino talaga ang idinikta ng mga tao”.
Masongsong added that the peace covenant ensures the community of Los Banos to have a safe and secure election and to make sure that the politicians agree to the rules and regulation being implemented.
“Malinis, matagumpay, safe, secured na halalan… kaya nga po binigyan ko na sila ng impormasyon na kinaailangan during campaign para di na nila sabihing hindi sila informed,” said Banzuela about the importance of the peace covenant. “…being not informed ay kasalanan mo”.
Norvin Tamisin, a candidate for municipal councilor, believes that the peace covenant is just a form of formality. According to him, a public servant should be of strong character and has no intention of cheating or any dishonest motives. He believes that as long as you’re doing what is right, you do not need a covenant signing to express your intentions.
The event received different insights from the participants and attendees about the effectiveness of the campaign to the coming Los Baños election.
“Gusto naming marinig ang panunumpa nila para sa (kaayusan ng) darating na halalan. Ang programang ito ay makakatulong sapagkat magkakaisa sila at mawawalan ng sakit ng loob sa bawat isa,” said Lourdes Valenzuela from Brgy. Bambang came to see the candidates sign the peace covenant.
“Magiging sama-sama ang mga tatakbo sa taong ito. Mawawalan na din sila ng rason para sabihing hindi sila informed kapag nakalabag sila ng patakaran sa araw ng pangangampanya,” said PO1 Cadangan, one of the Los Baños police posted during the event.
“Siguro magiging fair ang election,” Neil Andrew Yap, a resident of Brgy. Anos and former SK officer who came to support his candidate said about the possible success of the event, “Nasa sa kanila (candidates) pa rin naman yan.”
“The coming election is a mere political exercise and I wish the best for everyone. At the end of the day we are all one as citizens of Los Baños in working together for further progress,” Anthony Genuino stated not as a candidate but as the current mayor of town.
The rules and regulation set by COMELEC will be strictly implemented, according to Banzuela. People who are caught distributing flyers and other campaign paraphernalia after the election period will be apprehended by the police force. He encouraged the citizens to participate in guarding the integrity of their vote. In this regard, COMELEC created a Twitter and Facebook account for the residents to have easier access to the Commission for reports of unlawful actions and violations during the election.
This year, inmates will also be given the chance to participate in the national election, Banzuela announces so that people would not make assumptions when ballots are removed from election precincts to be delivered to municipal jails.
The peace covenant signing is a nationwide event organized by the joint efforts of PNP, COMELEC, and Department of Interior Local Government for the coming May 2013 elections.