MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is closely monitoring at least 15 places in the country as “areas of concern” in the upcoming May 2013 midterm elections.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters Tuesday that the areas are Abra, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte, Pampanga, Cagayan, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, Batangas, Masbate, Western Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Basilan, Lanao Del Norte.
Brillantes had met with police and military officials Tuesday, the first of their regular meetings every two weeks, to be briefed on security operations.
He said that the initial list of areas of concern was based on the report of the police and military from Jan. 13 up to March 15 this year. The briefing covered peace and order, private armies and crime groups, Brillantes added.
They have also agreed to ditch the term “hotspots” and instead use four levels of classification: area of concern, area of immediate concern, area of grave concern, and area under Comelec-control.
“The next report [from the police] will be based on that kind of classification,” Brillantes said.
The police have the authority to determine which places are areas of concern but to upgrade the classification into immediate concern and grave concern will require coordination from Comelec and further verification.
Brillantes said this new classification system was “precondition to the start of the local campaign period.”
“We anticipate there will be many problems when it comes to local campaign,” he added.
He however said that the declaration of an area as under Comelec-control was reserved only for the most extreme cases.
“Total breakdown of peace and order in one entire area, that’s the time you go into Comelec control, that will never happen, unless many people are killing each other,” Brillantes said.
“Comelec control means Comelec takeover of an entire province, it means what is happening there is already very extreme,” he said.
A petition needs to be filed before an area can be placed under Comelec control. Brillantes said that several requests have already been filed but the Comelec was not acting on any of them because there was no basis.