PNP lists 19 election areas of concern
AT LEAST 19 towns and cities were listed as areas of concern due to election-related violent incidents recorded there, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde said on Monday, January 14.
Albayalde said among the areas of concern are the municipalities of Sudipen, Balaoan and Jones in Isabela, Lemery in Batangas, Roxas town in Oriental Mindoro, Balud and Dimasalang in Masbate, and Daraga town in Albay.
The list also includes areas in the Mindanao region such as Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur, Cagayan de Oro City, Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Tipotipo and Lantawan in Basilan, Sultan Dumalundong, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Unsay in Maguindanao and Marawi city.
“Out of that 19, we have validated seven that these areas are really hotspots or EWAS (Election Watchlist Areas) na there were incidents of violence before, ‘yung heated rivalry and presence of insurgents and other threat groups,” said Albayalde.
On Thursday, January 10, the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) conducted an inter-agency conference to discuss security measures for the upcoming midterm elections.
The Comelec gun ban took effect on January 13 which mandates the PNP to establish checkpoints to hinder the possible transport of firearms and explosives which may be used to sow violence in the upcoming elections.
The Comelec said they are still studying the recommendation of the local Comelec officials to place
Daraga town and Cotabato City under Comelec control due to violent incidents such as the killing of Ako Bicol Party-list representative Rodel Batocabe on December 22.
In the case of Cotabato City, Albayalde said they have made “special security preparations” following the New Year’s eve bombing that killed two people and wounded 32 others.
He said one battalion from the elite Special Action Force has been deployed in Cotabato City in addition to the police and military forces there for the conduct of plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law next week, which was allegedly the reason behind the said bombing there.
“In some areas, we will see. We just have to consolidate our troops or re-deploy our personnel particularly coming from the police regional mobile groups,” said Albayalde.
The PNP has started the strategic deployment of its forces to ensure peace and order during the 150-day election period.
Albayalde said the PNP’S security operations include the following eight-point plan:
- Strict implementation of gun ban;
- Intensified focus law enforcement operations;
- Dismantling of private armed groups;
- Early preparation of security and contingency plans;
- Provide security to vulnerable candidates;
- Limited reshuffle of PNP personnel;
- Accounting of loose firearms; and
- Neutralization of gun for hire and criminal gangs.
Albayalde also said all normal law enforcement and public safety functions will continue without let-up.
“Because our country holds national and local elections every three years, election security has become an almost perfect science in the PNP such that every unit and personnel has had some amount of experience and skill in performing election duty,” he said.
“Each time, there are always lessons learned from previous experience that allow us to innovate and improve on how to address situations. And always we put our best foot forward to accomplish the mission,” he added./ Sunstar Philippines