PNP eyes 120 poll ‘hot spots’
MANILA, Philippines — With a month to go before Filipino voters go to the polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to release the final list of areas considered as election hot spots.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, however, said the Philippine National Police had submitted the names of 120 areas that should be on the list.
In a joint briefing held by the Comelec and the Department of the Interior and Local Government on Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Divina, the PNP deputy chief for operations and also the head of the task force for the May 9 national and local polls, said they had recommended that 105 municipalities and 15 cities be categorized as red or “areas of grave concern.”
According to him, these were places that needed “more focused deployment and operations on the part of PNP.”
But Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body had yet to finish validating the PNP list.
“We hope that within the week or within what’s left of the week, we will be able to release the final list of areas under concern,” he said.
Election hot spots are categorized into four—green, yellow, orange and red—in order of increasing security concern.
Green areas are considered generally peaceful for the conduct of elections.
Yellow areas, also called “areas of concern,” refer to places where poll-related violence has been reported in the past two elections.
Orange areas or those considered as “areas of immediate concern,” have a recorded presence of armed groups, including the New People’s Army, which may disrupt the peaceful conduct of elections.
Red areas, on the other hand, meet the parameters for both yellow and orange areas. Considered “areas of grave concern,” they must be placed under the control of the Comelec which may direct the deployment of additional police and military personnel if necessary.
According to Jimenez, while the poll body respects the PNP’s findings, it also needed to cross-check with its personnel in these areas to determine the Comelec’s proper response.
“We tend to use [a] light hand on this matter, because we find it very disruptive to the local community if we just immediately enter the area and declare it an election hot spot,” he said.
During the midterm elections in 2019, the Comelec listed 946 election hot spots, mostly under the red category (540), after it categorized the whole of Mindanao, composed of 422 municipalities and 33 cities, as red, along with Jones in Isabela, Lope de Vega in Northern Samar and Abra province.