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Politicians split on declaration of election hot spots

/ 02:53 AM November 19, 2012

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas on Friday declared 15 provinces as “areas of concern” for the 2013 midterm elections as they posed the biggest problems, including loose firearms, armed or threat groups and intense political rivalry. FILE PHOTO

DAGUPAN CITY—Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza, Liberal Party candidate for Pangasinan governor, on Saturday welcomed the inclusion of the province in the list of “high-risk” areas for election violence, saying it “would translate to free elections, with the people free to vote without fear of retaliation from losing candidates.”

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas on Friday declared 15 provinces as “areas of concern” for the 2013 midterm elections as they posed the biggest problems, including loose firearms, armed or threat groups and intense political rivalry.

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Aside from Pangasinan, the other provinces are Abra, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan.

Roxas said these provinces would get priority in the security preparations for next year’s elections.

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But Marino Salas, Pangasinan election supervisor, said the release of the list could be premature.

“We have not received any data that says Pangasinan is an area of concern,” Salas said in a telephone interview on Friday. “One of the grounds [for making that conclusion] is intense political rivalry [and] the history of election-related violent incidents. But as far as we are concerned, it’s still premature,” he said.

Braganza said listing Pangasinan as an area of concern means authorities could speed up the dismantling of armed groups, establish the number of security guards who can accompany a candidate during the campaign and set up checkpoints as a deterrent against the proliferation of firearms.

Placing Pangasinan under the watch list could affect Pangasinan’s image, “but what is more important is at present, the killings must be stopped,” he said. He cited as example the recent killing of the chair of the Association of Barangay Council in Burgos town.

Senior Supt. Mariano Luis Verzosa Jr., Pangasinan police director, welcomed the move because, he said, “if the province is 80 percent peaceful now, it would be 100 percent peaceful because more law enforcers would be assigned to the province.”

In Nueva Ecija, Gov. Aurelio Umali said he has been advocating for the removal of the province from the political “hot spot” list since he was first elected as governor in 2007.

In Ilocos Sur, Senior Supt. Noel Amuyen, provincial police director, said considering the province as a high-risk area could have been based on the previous elections.

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But he said next year’s elections should be peaceful because half of the reelectionist mayors in the 32 towns and two cities are running unopposed.

In La Union, Gov. Manuel Ortega Jr. said his administration “supports all efforts to make the coming elections honest, orderly and peaceful.”

“In fact, he (Ortega) has been calling (on the police) to expedite their investigation on recent events to allay fears. He repeatedly expressed confidence that (the police) could keep the province safe from bad elements/groups who are out to disrupt the elections,” said provincial information officer Adamor Dagang.

Last week, civic groups and the police held a rally in Agoo town to denounce the series of murders that took place there recently. Reports from Yolanda Sotelo, Gabriel Cardinoza and Leoncio Balbin Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon

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TAGS: 2013 midterm elections, election hot spots, election violence, Politics
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