The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has certified as a “non-election related incident” the alleged robbery perpetrated in the Batalay, Bato residence of congressional candidate Eulogio Rodriguez.
In a statement issued last Saturday, May 7, 2022, Maj. Emsol Icawat, the spokesperson of the Catanduanes Provincial Police office clarified that the incident does not fall into the definition of an election-related incident.
Two days after the incident, the Bato municipal police station sought the opinion of Acting Election Officer Amelia Arizabal
During that time, there were reports that the camp of former Mayor Rodriguez had asked the authorities to declare the alleged robbery as an election-related incident, so that the province of Catanduanes would be classified as a “red” area.
Under the PNP’s categorization, red areas have suspected election-related incidents, intense political rivalries, and possible presence of armed groups such as the New People’s Army that may interrupt the polls.
Red areas are to be placed under COMELEC control, with additional security forces to be deployed.
The CATPPO statement said that pursuant to the Omnibus Election Code, “Election Related Incident (ERI) is defined as crime incident which could affect or disrupt the electoral proceedings or create a form of political tension that could eventually upset the electoral process, regardless of the motive.”
It stressed that the Batalay case will not affect the electoral process in the province, with the police investigation focusing on robbery as the primary motive of the crime.
The Catanduanes police, however, said that it is not taking the incident lightly and in fact have created the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) “Batalay” to focus on the speedy resolution of the case.
It also called on the people to support the authorities for the conduct of peaceful and orderly elections last Monday, May 9.
It assured that the local police and Army soldiers, along with other government agencies directly in charge of the elections, are on alert as it appealed for the citizenry to comply with election rules and regulations to avoid any untoward incidents on Election Day.
The incident came just a day after high officials of the PNP, AFP and the Philippine Coast Guard visited the province on May 2.
Police Regional Office 5 Regional Director BGen. Mario Reyes, together with Commander Coast Guard Bicol District Commo. Angel Viliran and 9th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Alex Luna arrived via chopper together with former PRO5 RD and now PNP Director for Plans MGen. Bartolome Bustamante to preside over the Peace Covenant Signing of local candidates at Camp Francisco Camacho.
Also present were Acting Provincial Election Supervisor Atty. Francis Nieves and Fr. Renato dela Rosa of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
Former Mayor Rodriguez joined Gov. Joseph Cua, San Andres Mayor Peter Cua and other candidates in signing the Integrity Pledge for free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections, and to abide by the Constitution and election laws in respecting the sanctity of the electoral exercise.
“I will not employ any form of violence, force/goons, gun or threat that may impair, impede or unduly influence the free exercise of the people’s right of suffrage,” said the pledge, which also asked the bets not to yield to the “Permit to Campaign” and “Permit to Win” scheme of the NPA.
“I will not induce any individual to engage in any form of ballot buying,” it said further, as all the candidates present vowed to take the lead to a zero violent election-related incident in their localities.