Authorities to reassess troops augmentation in Negros Oriental

By Mary Judaline Partlow and John Rey Saavedra

September 20, 2023, 8:17 pm

<p><strong>REASSESSING SECURITY.</strong> Security forces man a Comelec checkpoint in Negros Oriental. The Regional Joint Security Control Center-Central Visayas will reassess the security situation in Negros Oriental to determine if there is a need to deploy more troops, as the Comelec En Banc ruled to push through with the Barangay and SK Elections in the violence-hit province on Oct. 30, 2023. <em>(Photo courtesy of Viscom PIO)</em></p>

REASSESSING SECURITY. Security forces man a Comelec checkpoint in Negros Oriental. The Regional Joint Security Control Center-Central Visayas will reassess the security situation in Negros Oriental to determine if there is a need to deploy more troops, as the Comelec En Banc ruled to push through with the Barangay and SK Elections in the violence-hit province on Oct. 30, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Viscom PIO)

CEBU CITY – The Regional Joint Security Control Center (RJSCC) in Central Visayas will reassess the situation in Negros Oriental as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gave the green light to proceed with the holding of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on Oct. 30.

Lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano, Comelec-7 regional director, said the RJSCC, which he chaired, will determine if more troops are needed to secure the province once the 10-day campaign period starts on Oct. 19.

“There are a lot of PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) troops there that were added even before the declaration,” Castillano told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Of the 557 barangays in Negros Oriental, only about 5 percent need Comelec’s “close attention” after being listed on the election watchlist.

The number could either decrease or increase, depending on the outcome of the reassessment by the RSJCC, he added.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Central Visayas (Region 7) expressed its readiness to secure Negros Oriental now that the campaign period for the barangay and SK elections nears.

PRO-7 spokesperson, Lt. Col. Gerard Ace Pelare said the PNP is ready to send more police troops to the province should the Comelec recommend it.

“Upon assessment of the Comelec…finds that it will be necessary to add more security forces, then we will abide… The final consideration is the possible impact of the peace and order situation in a particular area may affect the conduct of the election,” Pelare said.

Pelare said the PRO 7 saw improvement in the effort to manage the crime volume in Negros Oriental.

“We also have major accomplishment as our record shows that there are now members of private armed groups who are either arrested or now being tagged along by our tracker team in Negros Oriental,” he added.

He said the PRO-7 is committed to sending more police personnel to the province soon as the campaign period starts.

27 election watchlist areas identified 

Meanwhile, authorities have identified 27 election watchlist areas (EWAS) in Negros Oriental.

Col. Ronan Claravall, acting PNP provincial director of Negros Oriental, in a separate interview, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that these areas are mostly in the 3rd district of the province.

Claravall said these EWAS will be submitted to the Comelec en banc that will have the final say whether to declare these places as areas of concern.

The EWAS, previously known as election “hotspots”, are categorized according to the PNP’s criteria and color coding of green, yellow, orange, and red.

Comelec provincial election supervisor-designate lawyer Eliseo Labaria said 26 areas fell under the orange category while one under yellow.

Orange category means there is a serious armed threat, whether individuals or groups such as the communist insurgents, Labaria said.

Yellow category means that the area has a history of election-related incidents in the last elections.

Red category is an area of grave concern with combined factors, and green is the least, and is considered generally peaceful.

Labaria, however, clarified that once Negros Oriental is placed under Comelec control, “this categorization will no longer apply because we treat the whole province as one and the same category”.

Meanwhile, the period covered by the Comelec control will only take effect seven days after the publication on a national paper of the resolution in this regard. (PNA)

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