800 ‘hot’ towns on Comelec watch list
Police on Friday said they were closely watching more than 800 towns identified as “election watch-list areas” in 80 provinces as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday set about erecting the system of security checkpoints across the country for the entire five-month election period.
The list of “election watch-list areas” has expanded over the past couple of months, from 509 to 889 areas in 1,634 towns and municipalities, the Philippine National Police disclosed at a command conference with the Comelec, the Armed Forces and the Department of Education on Friday.
As of Jan. 7, these places have been identified as “election watch-list areas” because of incidences of election violence, intense political rivalry, proliferation of loose firearms and the presence of armed and other threat groups, said Sr. Supt. Nestor Bergonia of the PNP Task Force 2013.
“This list would be expected to change when all factors are considered and as the elections draw near,” said Bergonia.
Since October last year, the PNP has monitored 40 incidents of “intense political rivalry” involving incumbent politicians. These incidents resulted in 32 deaths—17 incumbent officials, six candidates and nine government employees—and 32 injuries, he said.
At least 52 active groups in control of 2,664 firearms are a potential threat to the May 13 balloting, according to the joint AFP-PNP national validation workshop on private armed groups, Bergonia said.
The workshop identified the communist New People’s Army as the largest organized private armed group, which it said is expected to collect “permit-to-campaign” and “permit-to-win” fees ranging from between P50,000 and P5 million from politicians running for various elective positions in the May polls.
Other potential threats include at least four organized crime groups in possession of 474 firearms and 260 criminal gangs with a strength of 2,508 members and holding 829 weapons, Bergonia said.
Checkpoint dry run
Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said he would be going around Metro Manila on Friday to conduct a dry run of the Comelec checkpoints that will be activated at midnight Saturday, to ensure that the election gun ban is enforced.
Comelec Resolution No. 9561 prohibits anyone from carrying firearms outside residences and in places of business unless authorized in writing by the election body.
“We just want to see if the requirements of the checkpoints are fulfilled like wearing the proper uniform, the areas are well-lighted and there are escorts,” he told a press briefing that followed the command conference.
Starting Saturday night
He said authorities will start setting up the checkpoints this evening in time for the start of the election period on Sunday.
“There’s really no problem in Metro Manila. We are more concerned about the checkpoints in the provinces. We don’t expect any major peace and order problems in Manila but more in the provinces,” Brillantes said.
For the 2013 balloting, the Comelec has allotted a budget of P770 million for the PNP and the AFP which have been deputized to help the Comelec in ensuring honest, peaceful and orderly elections.
Under Resolution No. 9588, the Comelec said the checkpoints must be set up only in areas that are well-lighted. If the designated area is poorly lit, artificial lighting must be provided.
The poll body also said that checkpoint areas must be properly labeled, with signboards bearing the name and address of the election officer in the city and identifying the commanding officer or team leader of the checkpoint.
These signboards must be labeled on both sides so motorists can “clearly identify the place as a Comelec checkpoint from a reasonable distance,” the poll body said.
The military and police personnel manning these checkpoints must be in complete uniform and should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the Comelec said.
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