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The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday said police officers seen on the various social media tearing up ballots in a Cotabato precinct are mandated to do so by a Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruling,  according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

"We have 'fact-checked' video footage circulating on the Internet wherein police officers were shown tearing some election forms. Reports from Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (in Muslim Mindanao) indicate that the video footage was taken at the Datu Ayunan Elementary School, MB Kalanganan, Cotabato City where PNP personnel served as members of the Special Electoral Board (SBEI). Their designation as SBEI for Clustered Precincts Number 69 (Precinct Numbers 0215A, 0215B, 0215C & 0216A) was authorized by Atty. Nasroding M. Mustapha, Cotabato City Election Officer," PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr said.

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He added that the PNP City Director of Cotabato City, Col. Rommel L. Javier had already explained that after the casting of votes/cut off time at about 7 p.m. on May 9 in the respective precincts, the PNP BEI members were mandated to tear up the unused blank official ballots sheets.

This is based on Comelec Omnibus Election Code Article 17 of Section 204 entitled Disposition of unused ballots at the close of the voting hours.

"It was further reported that the said tearing was witnessed by Mr. Arfaj-Erven P. Ahmad, the Designated Election Supervisor Officer (DESO) and watchers from parties of OneCotabato and UBJP. We hope this clarification and verified information puts this matter to rest and further enlightened the public about the election rules and procedures," Danao said.

As this developed, Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Branwer Jr. commended Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu for the "most peaceful" and orderly conduct of the elections in the province.

He also lauded the unit for doubling its efforts in preserving solidarity and security among the registered voters in Sulu.

The JTF Sulu deployed a total of 2,976 soldiers with 168 officers, 2, 808 enlisted personnel, and 125 reserve troops last May 9.

At the same time, the JTF Sulu also strengthened its focused-military operations and civil military operations to neutralize the remaining communist terrorist group for a secure and safe environment during the election period.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Valeriano De Leon, PNP directorate for operations chief, called on the public to respect both the Comelec and the outcome of the elections amid planned protest actions over allegations of irregularities.

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De Leon, who is also the concurrent commander of the national and local elections, said it is the entire country that will suffer if allegations of election cheating are floated when there is no proof so far that it happened.

Comelec officials and its partner groups have been repeatedly saying that they have not seen any indication of massive irregularities so far.

"On the part of the PNP, we did our best to ensure that it is the will of the people which will be reflected in the results of the elections. We made sacrifices, we made security adjustments every now and then to deny any individual or group the opportunity to sabotage the result of the elections," De Leon said.


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