Security tightened in election hot spots
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has tasked the Philippine National Police to intensify checkpoint operations and other measures to secure 5,744 villages classified as “hot spots” for the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
In a statement on Wednesday, Eduardo Año, DILG officer in charge, reminded PNP personnel to anticipate an increase in political tension as the election day draws closer.
Año said the police must strictly enforce the election gun ban and enhance visibility to ensure peaceful and orderly polls.
“The responsibility of ensuring a safe and peaceful environment, where citizens will be able to exercise their right to vote, lies primarily on the shoulders of the police,” he said.
The police, he said, should deploy more personnel to areas which have a history of election-related violent incidents.
The PNP has included 5,744 barangay nationwide in its election watch list, with 2,025 classified under category 1, where rivalry among candidates is intense and there is a history of election-related violence and presence of private armed groups (PAGs).
Under category 2 are 3,448 villages. These areas have intense political rivalry, history of election-related violence and PAGs, and the presence of armed threats.
The 271 barangay under category 3 are areas where all critical factors exist, including the proliferation of loose firearms and the activities of criminal gangs.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has the most number of category 3 barangay, followed by the Bicol region and Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) regions.
In Leyte province, five villages in the hometown of confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa in Albuera town have been identified as election hot spots.
One of these villages is Binolho, where the Espinosas own two houses. Kerwin, who is detained at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, and his father, slain Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., used to live in the Binolho house.
The four other villages being watched by authorities for the elections are Tinag-an, Balugo, Mahayahay, and Sherwood.
“These barangay were identified due to intense political rivalries during past elections and because we have monitored [people in these areas] who were identified with the Espinosas,” said Senior Insp. Ronald Espina, town police chief.
“The President needs allies in the barangay to lead the campaign against crime, illegal drugs and corruption. Let us make … sure that our people will be secure and safe as they go out and vote for barangay leaders who will make change happen,” Año said. —Reports from Jeanette I. Andrade and Joey A. Gabieta
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