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Comelec wants Zambo special polls held before Nov. 30, 2013

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) wants the special barangay elections in war-torn Zamboanga City to be held before November 30, 2013, when the terms of incumbent barangay officials are set to expire.

At a press briefing Wednesday, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said this is to prevent the situation where incumbent village officials will retain their positions even after the expiration of their respective terms.

"Preferably, we would want the special elections before November 30 to avoid any holdover," Brillantes said.

The Comelec suspended the elections in Zamboanga City's 98 barangays — originally scheduled on October 28 — due to the damage caused by the recent armed conflict there between government troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels.

The poll body took into consideration the burned voting centers in the area as well as the recent floods that hampered the city's rehabilitation.

Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, chairman of the Comelec's steering committee on the barangay elections, said the military requested 30 days of clearing operations before elections may be held in the city.

Once clearing operations are finished, the Comelec would need 19 days of preparation before the special polls, Lim said, adding there would be six days for candidates to file their certificates of candidacy, 10 days for the campaign period, and a day for the liquor ban.

Asked how likely the special elections would be held before November 30, 2013, Lim said, "70 to 80 percent."

"We want to avoid a holdover. We might be blamed for favoring the incumbent. But at the end of the day, the priority is the peace and situation in Zamboanga city," Lim said.

According to Resolution No. 9793, the Comelec approved the recommendations of Lim who visited Zamboanga city last week.

Lim proposed the postponement of the elections there because of the difficulty in setting up voting centers as the voters are spread in different evacuation centers,  the trauma experienced by the residents, the need to complete the clearing operations, and the difficulty to deploy official ballots and other election paraphernalia as the Comelec offices were situated in evacuation centers.

Lim also cited intelligence reports that the MNLF may conduct other attacks coming from different areas such as Sibuco, Sirawai, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay and areas in Sulu and Basilan.

"The priority as of the moment is the rebuilding of the city from the ravage of the armed conflict," Lim said in his report.

Around 54 million voters nationwide are expected to vote in the Oct. 28 elections. The Comelec has set 170,603 clustered precincts for it. There are 42,028 barangays in 80 provinces across the country. — KBK, GMA News