MANILA, Philippines?More than 2,300 barangay (villages) across the country have been placed under the Commission on Elections? (Comelec) watch list for possible politically-motivated violence as the country girds for the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) elections.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters Friday that the 2,301 barangay were identified as election ?hot spots? due to either the presence of intense political rivalries or threats posed by communist or secessionist rebels.
?There are two categories of areas on the watch list,? noted Jimenez.
He said grouped under Category 1 were areas with existing intense political rivalries and where politically motivated election-related violence occurred during the May 2010 elections.
Barangay under Category 2 are areas with ?serious armed threats? stemming from the New People?s Army and secessionist groups, particularly in the southern Philippines, according to Jimenez.
Under the Comelec watch list made public Friday, 224 areas have been identified under Category 1 while 2,007 districts have been named under Category 2 out of the 42,025 barangay in the Philippines, as of Sept. 21.
In Metro Manila, only two barangay?Bagumbayan in Taguig City and Payatas in Quezon City?have been placed under Category 1.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has the greatest number of barangay on the watch list?734 villages as ?hot spots? due to presence of secessionist groups. Only 34 barangay are listed as areas of concern due to political rivalries.
The Bicol Region placed second, with 298 barangay identified as areas of concern, 23 under Category 1 and 275 under Category 2.
At least 11 barangay in Soccsksargen were placed under Category 1 of the Comelec watch list and 183 areas under Category 2.
The Davao region has 165 barangays identified as election hot spots, 96 percent of them listed under Category 2.
The military and the police have reported several attacks by communist rebels in past elections.
Communist rebels had been accused of staging an ambush that killed two soldiers, two policemen and a poll watcher during the May automated polling in Compostela Valley, one of the strongholds of the communist movement.
?These areas are on the watch list not just because of political rivalry but because we expect some election-related violence in connection with the presence of local communist movements and secessionist groups,? Jimenez said.
He added that the list might or might not change as the barangay elections drew closer.
The balloting is to be held on Oct. 25, which has been declared a special non-working holiday.