By Leslie Ann Aquino
Three public hearings, instead of just two, will be held to determine whether the May 14 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in Mindanao should be postponed or not.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) set the third public hearing on January 23 at the Grand Caprice Restaurant and Convention Center, Limketkai Center, Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City to give all interested parties the opportunity to be heard.
“The public hearing will afford all interested parties equal opportunity to be heard on whether or not to postpone the May 14, 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections in the region,” Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said in a statement.
“The consultations are precisely meant to help the Commission determine whether or not the upcoming elections should be postponed in Mindanao,” he added.
Jimenez said it was crucial for them to verify that the conditions for free and fair elections are present in spite of the persistence of martial law in that part of the country.
Based on Section 5, Article 1 of the Omnibus Election Code, the COMELEC may motu propio postpone elections in a particular location, after due notice and hearing therein, when the holding of free, orderly and honest elections should become impossible due to any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia, and other analogous causes of such nature.
The COMELEC previously set separate public hearings on January 22 in Zamboanga City and on January 29 in Cotabato City through a minute resolution.
The poll body also conducted a public consultation in Davao City August last year on the possible postponement of the October 23, 2017 village and youth polls in Mindanao to help determine if a postponement was necessary, as well as the scope of the postponement.