ZAMBOANGA CITY - Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chief Henrietta de Villa visited Jolo island Thursday to advocate for a clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful (CHAMP) polls in the southern province.
CHAMP is the election advocacy battle cry of PPCRV.
To erase doubts that cheating is massive in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), volunteers from 12 youth and women organizations in Jolo island will be tapped by PPCRV to monitor the election proceedings, according to the official Philippine Information Agency in Zamboanga City.
Regional Director Rey Sumalipao, of the Commission on Elections in the Autonomous Region, who assisted Sarmiento in the visit, is optimistic that families displaced by fighting between rebels and soldiers could return home before the May 14 polls, it said.
Many of the refugees are staying in temporary government shelters on the island. The United Nations said as many as 42,000 people have been affected by the hostilities that broke out April 13 after Moro National Liberation Front rebels under Ustadz Khabir Malik attacked a marine base in Panamao town.
The COMELEC will somehow be forced to put up makeshift shelters near school buildings housing dislocated families to serve as polling places, or use village and health centers and even police stations for the purpose, Sumalipao said.
In preparation for the mid-year elections, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has issued Proclamation No. 1279 declaring Monday, May 14, as a special public, non-working holiday nationwide "to give the people the fullest opportunity to exercise their right of suffrage" during the national and local elections on that day. (Mimi Bern-Edaga)