AIR SUPPORT. Personnel of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 6 (PAF-TOG 6) and members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) on Saturday (May 11, 2019) pose before boarding the helicopter that will take them to the three upland barangays of Tapaz, Capiz for their election assignment on May 13. Barangay Hilwan, the farthest town from the Poblacion, can be reached after a 16 hour travel by foot or motorcycle ride for a two-and-a-half hour. (Photo courtesy of PAF-TOG 6)
ILOILO CITY -- Two days before the mid-term elections, members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and election paraphernalia for the three far-flung villages of Tapaz, Capiz were flown to their respective assignments by the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 6 (PAF-TOG 6) on Saturday.
In a phone interview, Lt. Col Dennis A. Alcarde, Group Commander of the PAF-TOG 6, said around 24 personnel who will be serving Barangays Rizal Sur, Rizal Norte and Hilwan, were airlifted by two helicopters.
A total of 10 personnel of the TOG 6 were tasked for the three sorties back and forth to complete the deployment, he said.
After being dropped off at Rizal Norte, the members of the board proceeded to their respective assignments in the barangays.
Meanwhile, Tapaz election officer Lene Sausa said Rizal Sur has 283 registered voters, Rizal Norte has 208 while Hilwan has 334 voters. The polling center will be at the primary schools of each barangay.
Of the three barangays, Hilwan is at 80 kilometers from the town Poblacion. Traveling by foot takes about 16 hours while it is a two and a half hours ride on motorcycle.
Barangay Rizal Norte is 30 kilometers away from the town proper and can be reached after an eight-hour walk or a two-hour motorcycle ride.
Barangay Rizal Sur is 25 kilometers away from the Poblacion and can be reached after a seven-hour walk and a two-hour motorcycle trip.
Going to these areas also entail crossing rivers. In case of heavy rains, the water level has a tendency to rise, rendering river crossing dangerous.
“Some of the members of the board are from the Poblacion but they teach in those areas,” she said.
She added that they just tapped residents of the place and from neighboring barangays to be members of the board.
After the elections, she said there is a possibility that the transmission will be done at the Poblacion due to lack of cellular phone signal in the barangays. Barangay Rizal has a weak signal but there is no assurance that it is capable to transmit the result, she said.
With close to 1,000 voters, Sausa said their votes still matter, especially at the local level, where vote counts could be close.
Sausa said security is also provided to the election personnel because it is situated in the upland areas of Tapaz.
While there were no reported sightings of communist rebels in the areas in the past days, she advised them to keep safe.
“Looking at how far their assignment and they still have to cross a river, we always advise them that their safety is paramount,” she said.
Nonetheless, she said they are ready; they brought with them provisions such as their food.
She added that while their honorarium is not commensurate with their tasks, they are still committed to serve.
Meanwhile, Alcarde said they will just wait for instruction as to whether or not election personnel and paraphernalia will be airlifted during the retrieval of the results.
“Our helicopter is now on standby and we are just waiting for the directive tomorrow as regard to other requests of the Comelec. As far as our government is concerned, we give our all-out support to help in this election at the same time remaining apolitical,” he said. (PNA)