[Elections 2013] Lipa City a poll hotspot?


LIPA CITY—The Calabarzon region’s police chief said this city is among the election-related hotspots in Batangas that law enforcers are keeping an eye on this May.

But local police and residents here just shrug off those worries concerning alleged election-related violence here.

“There is no particular hotspot or security concern here in Lipa especially during elections,” Lipa City’s deputy chief of police Oliver Ebora told The Filipino Connection.

No political rivalry that causes election crimes here, adds Noel Correa, officer-in-charge of this city’s Commission on Elections (Comelec). Most of the rivalry here, he adds, is from the supporters of each candidate. One of the reasons for this rivalry is like the posting of tarpaulin.

There would come a time that even though the local Comelec already gave the right place to put a tarpaulin, a candidate would still put his tarpaulin on the prohibited place then another candidate would also put until words would be thrown from the supporters.

He adds that election turmoil only occurs “because we have a mentality here in the Philippines that if a candidate loses, he got cheated.”

Lipa City was no stranger in these scenarios as in the previous May 2010 polls, losing councilor candidate Atty. Francisco Librea filed a protest asking the Comelec to disqualify then candidate and now incumbent Mayor Meynardo Sabili from running for the city’s top post for alleged “lack of residency.”

Voting 9-4, the Supreme Court en banc, however nullified an early Comelec decision cancelling Sabili’s certificate of candidacy and ruled that Sabili “has been able to adduce substantial evidence to demonstrate compliance with the one-year residency requirement for local elective officials under the law.”

Librea ran but lost under the ticket of former Lipa Mayor Oscar Gozos, whom Sabili defeated in the past election by more than 6,000 votes.

As well, “there are no private armed groups being watched out for” this coming election, says Ebora, contrary to reports from the Calabarzon Philippine National Police (PNP) that some eight private armies with links to local politicians are roaming around Cavite and Batangas provinces.

Ebora added there was once reported that there was a private armed group in Brgy. Malitlit but this was cleared since there were no sufficient evidence given and no firearms were found.

So a housewife and registered voter, Nenet, the election for this year “would be okay”. But she warns that there would only be conflict “if the current (officials are) not running the city properly”.

Five candidates will be vying for the city’s mayoralty post this coming polls and these are Sabili, incumbent vice mayor Lydio Lopez, Jr., city councilor Merlo Silva, Lyn Dimaano and Roy Sanggalang.

Correa says that based on the latest Comelec hearings, Lipa City has about 147,000 registered voters in this year’s elections, more than last polls’ 139,000 voters.

He says that Comelec would strictly implement the gun ban this January 13, with the Lipa City Police, to be able to go after loose firearms, which criminals might use to disrupt the city’s peace and order situation.

“Maybe right now (Lipa City is peaceful) but as the election gets nearer, the situation might as well change,” Correa said.