‘Grave’ poll hot spots increase to 570
With the entire Mindanao region already declared by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a Red election area “of grave concern,” the number of areas placed under the highest category of poll hot spots has jumped from only 94 last month nationwide to 570.
At a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City, on Monday, Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said that of the 941 election hot spots under various categories nationwide, only two — Cotabato City and Daraga town in Albay province — had been placed under Comelec control.
The Comelec last week decided to place 454 towns and cities in 27 provinces in Mindanao as “areas of grave concern.”
It also reduced the number of Orange areas of “immediate concern” nationwide to 238 from 382 and Yellow “areas of concern” to 131 from 223 last month.
Albayalde said he believed that the Comelec just wanted “to ensure that the deployment of [police] personnel [in Mindanao] was enough.”
Police deployment will be “realigned” with the new development, he said.
“It’s not necessarily that the Red areas of grave concern are unruly. We know the [Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)] plebiscites had just been conducted in Mindanao. We just want to ensure peaceful elections [there] because as we all know, there were also those who opposed the BOL,” Albayalde said.
Areas placed under the Yellow category are those with a history of election-related violence in the last two elections and intense political rivalry. These areas had been previously placed under Comelec control.
Areas under the Orange category include places where there is a serious armed threat from the New People’s Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and other terror groups.
Private armed groups
As of March 20, 118 Red election areas were identified in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 93 in northern Mindanao, 73 in Caraga, 72 on the Zamboanga Peninsula, 49 each in the Davao region and Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), 45 in Eastern Visayas, 28 in Cordillera region, 21 in Bicol, five in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), four each in Central Luzon and Western Visayas, two in Cagayan Valley and one in Central Visayas.
Meanwhile, Albayalde said the police would intensify operations against private armed groups and loose firearms in preparation for the start of the campaign period for the local elections on March 29.
“Based on historical data [from] previous elections, election-related incidents resulting from intense political rivalry are expected to escalate during this period,” he said.
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