MANILA, Philippines – As the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (BSKE) elections draw closer, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Thursday that it is monitoring the situation in Socorro in Surigao del Norte, especially over the issues surrounding the alleged Socorro sect Bayanihan. Services Inc. (SBSI).
Comelec Chairman George Garcia made the statement after emphasizing the importance of guaranteeing every Filipino the right to vote.
Garcia said that while the issues are not yet directly related to the elections, the poll body is already anticipating certain “events” that may arise as a result of the issues dogging the SBSI.
“Ang s’amin lang po, sana hindi mapipigilan ang pagboto ng ating mga kababayan magmula sa kung saan sila andoon ngayon, papunta sa kung saan sila bobota … miyembro man sila o hindi noong mismong group (SBSI),” Garcia said in a press release conference.
(Our only hope is that the voting of our fellow citizens, wherever they may be now, in the direction of where they will vote, will not be hindered…whether or not they are members of said group.)
“That is why the Comelec is closely monitoring the development in Socorro, just like ‘yung hearing sa Senado (the Senate hearing),” he added.
READ: Senate begins investigation into alleged religious cult in Surigao del Norte
Garcia also expressed his desire to discuss the elections with all the personalities involved in the situation, even expressing his willingness to go to Sorocco himself to hold a dialogue with the parties involved.
“If we are willing to do business, we want to send the comeelec to another man who brings trouble, then it can be hindi maapektuhan halalan at the paboto ng ating mga kababayan,” Garcia said.
(I am willing to talk to them so that I can express my feelings to the Comelec: whatever issues are spread there, I hope that the election and vote of our compatriots will not be affected by them.)
“Otherwise, the Comelec will have to enforce the law and use all the tools and powers provided for in the Constitution to ensure that the right to vote is protected,” he added.
The Comelec head also stressed the need to ensure that candidates have the freedom to campaign for the Socorro to ensure equality among potential nominees.
Meanwhile, Garcia reiterated that there has been no postponement of the BSKE in Socorro so far, explaining that the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have yet to make such recommendations.
As a reminder, a complaint has already been filed against leaders of the alleged religious ‘cult’ Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Surigao del Norte for alleged violation of qualified human trafficking, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, the law prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination.
Previously, the alleged cult’s leader and three of its members were cited in contempt for dodging questions during a joint Senate panel investigation.