19 towns, 4 cities in Ecija watched for election rivalries

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CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines—Nineteen towns and four cities in Nueva Ecija were placed under strict monitoring by the police due to heightening political rivalries in those areas.

“It is still three weeks to go [before the campaign period starts] and yet the political heat is already felt in these towns and cities,” Chief Insp. Arnel Santiago, head of the police community relations bureau in Nueva Ecija, said.

He said Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, provincial police director, met with all chiefs of police of Nueva Ecija to discuss ways to prevent the escalation of violence, especially when the campaign period for the local elections starts on March 29.

Only Palayan City and the towns of Gen. Tinio, Peñaranda, Llanera, San Leonardo, Zaragoza, Laur, Rizal and Guimba were excluded from the election watch list in the province, Santiago said.

Nueva Ecija has five cities and 27 towns. In past elections, the province hogged the headlines due to political violence that included the killing of a candidate running for governor.

Santiago said the provincial police would closely watch followers of rival candidates.

“These followers may be carried away by the heat of the political campaign and create trouble,” he said.

He said three action centers, each composed of a team of policemen, Army soldiers and members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu), have been established in the province’s exit points.

These would add to the checkpoints manned by personnel of the Nueva Ecija police and the police’s Regional Special Operations Task Group in various parts of the province.

“We can say that Nueva Ecija has already been sealed for the coming in or going out of lawless elements,” Santiago said. “But then, we don’t want to take any chances,” he added.

Supt. Ricardo Villanueva, chief of the provincial public safety company, said more than 600 firearms have been seized in the province since the gun ban was imposed in January.

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