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ARMM leaders, May election bets sign peace covenant

Cotabato City (March 8, 2016) – Regional officials and candidates running for various positions in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao expressed their support for peaceful elections this coming May.

The region’s leaders have signed last week a peace covenant that requires them to abide with election rules and regulations, to maintain good relations with each other, avoid any form of fraud for an honest, orderly, peaceful and credible elections.

Ma. Amelia Rowena Guanzon, commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and head of the agency’s Gender and Development Focal Point System (GAD-FPS) executive committee, said the signing will seal the commitment of the candidates for peaceful elections.

“I hope that this peace covenant will bind each of the candidates to the value of mutual respect, non-violence and peace,” said Commissioner Guanzon. She also assured the public that the agency is determined to have orderly and peaceful elections in the country especially in the ARMM.

“We assure you that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are working with the Comelec to ensure that we will have zero election-related violence in the 2016 elections,” she said.

PNP statistics showed 391 incidents of Election-Related Violence (ERVs) were recorded in the 2010 national elections, and 196 in the 2013 midterm elections.

ERVs refer to “acts or threats of coercion, intimidation or physical harm committed to affect an electoral process.” The PNP considers ERVs as violent incidents that happened within the election period.

The covenant was signed during a forum on gender and ERVs held on Friday, March 4, at the Shariff Kabunsuan Cultural Complex. The forum, spearheaded by the Comelec and the ARMM Regional Commission in Bangsamoro Women (RCBW-ARMM), was the first in the country and was aimed at discussing the connection between gender and ERV cases in the Philippines as well as “gather recommendations and best practices to combat ERVs, especially against women.”

Sittie Jehanne Mutin, RCBW-ARMM chair, said the forum does not only provide the participants a platform for exchange of gender sensitive ideas but also updates on election-related policies and activities. She added that “it is a step to a violence free, gender-balanced society.”

Around 700 participants including stakeholders from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Women and Gender Equality, officers of the PNP and the AFP, representatives from political parties, national, regional and local candidates, the academe, women and religious groups, attended the forum. (Bureau of Public Information)
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