MANILA -- Some 701 areas in the country have been identified as election hotspots as the campaign period for national candidates began on Tuesday.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, said the figure consists of 223 areas of concern (yellow category), 382 areas of immediate concern (orange category), 94 areas of grave concern (red category), and two areas under control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Albayalde said a place tagged as an area of concern means it has a history of election-related incidents in the last two elections and intense political rivalry, and it had been previously declared under Comelec control.
Meanwhile, areas of immediate concern are those where there is serious armed threat posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other lawless elements.
Areas of grave concern exhibit the combined factors under the yellow and orange categories, such that it may warrant the motu proprio (on its own) declaration of Comelec control.
Under the law, the Comelec may place any political subdivision under its immediate and direct control and supervision if, among other things, there is a history of or current intense political rivalry among contending parties, as these rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts.
”On election matters, as the campaign period gets underway for national elective positions in the May 13, 2019 mid-term elections, the PNP is seriously considering some adjustments in our projected deployment of police units and personnel for election duties,” Albayalde said.
Of the 94 areas of grave concern, 27 are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 19 in the Bicol region, seven each in Calabarzon and Western Mindanao, six each in Mimaropa and Western Visayas, five in Northern Mindanao, four each in Soccsksargen and the Cordillera region, three in Eastern Visayas, two each in Central Luzon and Davao region and one each in Caraga and Cagayan Valley.
Regions without areas of grave concern include Ilocos, National Capital Region (NCR) and Central Visayas.
In the NCR, five areas -- Manila, Caloocan, Pasay, Mandaluyong, and Malabon – have been classified as areas of concern.
“Currently in effect for the entire duration of the campaign period is a set of rules imposed by the Comelec, specifically on prescribed limits of campaign activities and other illegal acts defined under the Omnibus Election Code,” Albayalde said.
He also reiterated the PNP's strict compliance with all Comelec resolutions on the ban on carrying firearms and employment of bodyguards.
"Everyone is reminded of the Alunan Doctrine that allows only two security personnel under extreme cases, subject to background investigation and approval by Comelec,” he added.
The PNP chief also pointed out that aside from the mandated responsibilities of the PNP as a deputized agency of the Comelec, police law enforcement and public safety duties for election security operations is contained in the following eight-point SIDEPLAN:
-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 guns for hire and criminal gangs
He also reminded PNP personnel to “remain apolitical” to ensure clean and honest elections.
“We will ensure to remain apolitical and to protect the will of the electorate by ensuring honest, orderly and peaceful elections in May,” he said. (PNA)