Police and military presence will be intensified in 29 towns and cities in Central Visayas that were declared election watchlist areas (EWAs) based on their history of election-related incidents.
Of the number, seven are in Cebu.
These include the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, LapuLapu, and Danao as well as the municipalities of Ronda, San Fernando, and Tuburan.
Except for Tuburan, all EWAs in Cebu were classified as “yellow,” which means that the place had previous election-related incidents and intense political rivalry, said Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7).
Tuburan, on the other hand, was placed under the “orange” category with all factors indicated in the first category including armed threats.
No place in the region was put under the “red” category, which has all critical factors including proliferation of firearms.
“The basis of this watchlist is history and the criteria being given by the police headquarters in Camp Crame in coordination and consulation with Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Commission on Elections (Comelec),” said Sinas in an interview on Thursday.
Government agencies held their coordinating conference at Camp Sergio Osmeña, the PRO-7 headquarters in Cebu City, to discuss the security preparations for the May 13, 2019 elections.
Comelec-7 Director Rafael Olaño said the election gun ban will take effect on Jan. 30, 2019. The police bodyguards of politicians would also be recalled on the same day.
“Anyone who wants to be exempted from the gun ban can submit their applications now. Those who will qualify can be exempted,” he said.
Aside from the seven in Cebu, the other local government units (LGUs) in the list of 29 towns and cities in Central Visayas that were declared as EWAs included ten in Negros Oriental, six in Bohol, and six in Siquijor.
All EWAs in Negros Oriental are placed under the orange category. These are Guihulngan City, Bais City, Siaton City, Ayungon, Canlaon City, Mabinay, Tayasan, Sta. Catalina, Zamboanguita, and Manjuyod.
Placed under the yellow category in Bohol are the towns of Buenavista, Clarin, Danao, and Pilar. Tubigon and Inabanga, also in Bohol, are under the orange category.
All EWAs in Siquijor are placed under the yellow category, namely, the towns of Enrique Villanueva, Larena, Lazi, Maria, San Juan, and Siquijor.
Sinas said they are constantly monitoring the EWAs to make sure no violent incidents will happen in these areas in the run up to the elections.
“The categories could change anytime. We are constantly evaluating,” he said.
Sinas said they gathered reports from the 2016 elections, which they used as basis in identifying the EWAs.
“We just could not show the reports because they are confidential,” he explained.
CEBU DAILY NEWS tried but failed to reach reelectionist Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who is currently in Hong Kong.
Respect police’s decision
Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, who is running for mayor in next year's polls against Osmeña, welcomed the inclusion of the city in the EWAs list. Labella said he respects the assessment made by the police and election officials.
“That is their assessment. What can we do about it. Maybe they have their own reasons for that,” he said. “And we will abide on their recommendation, especially that it is just appropriate to protect everyone’s sacred right to suffrage,” he added.
Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, the deputy mayor on police matters, begged off from issuing any statement, saying he has yet to get the full details on the city’s inclusion in the EWAs list.
Senior Supt. Julian Entoma, director of the Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO), said the inclusion of the Mandaue City in the EWAs list was due to “intense” political rivalry.
He said the inclusion of the city in the list is intended to ensure the orderly conduct of the elections.
“We are expecting an intense political rivalry here,” he said.
Mandaue City Mayor Gabriel Luis “Luigi” Quisumbing, for his part, welcomed the inclusion of the city in the EWAs.
“Given the events of the previous months and the revelations in the city council yesterday about the presence of organized groups and drug syndicates as well as politicians allegedly protecting them, I welcome Mandaue’s inclusion,” said.
“Hopefully, this will discourage these groups and narcopoliticians from attempting to subvert the will of the people,” he added.
Quisumbing is seeking reelection against former mayor and now Sixth District Rep. Jonas Cortes.
Map shows the election watchlist areas (EWAs) or election hotspots in Central Visayas (Region 7). No place in the region has been placed under the “red” category.