Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar Albayalde on Tuesday, February 12, said a total of 701 cities and municipalities nationwide have been identified as election hotspots for the May 13 midterm polls.
These 701 election hotspots comprise 42.9 percent of the country’s 1,634 cities and municipalities.
According to Albayalde, the election hotspots were categorized and color-coded based on a set of parameters.
Of the total, 223 are “areas of concern” under the yellow category. Cities and municipalities under this have an intense political rivalry, a history of election-related incidents in the last two polls, and have been placed under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Currently, there are two areas under Comelec control, namely Cotabato city and Daraga town in Albay.
The Comelec put Daraga under its control after the assassination of AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe allegedly by the town’s mayor, Carlwyn Baldo. The Comelec has control over security forces and supervision over local officials doing poll duty under this set-up.
382 cities and municipalities, meanwhile, are areas of immediate concern under the orange category. Cities and municipalities under this category experience a serious armed threat posed by terror and rebel groups like the New People’s Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf Group and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Under the red category or election areas of grave concern are a total of 94 cities and municipalities. Hotspots under this have the combined factors of the yellow and orange categories.
“Una may intense political rivalry doon mayroon nang history of election-related violence doon whether physical injury, killing and others, or there’s threat of the National People’s Army, and other threat groups. Ito ‘yung naparami doon kaya naparami ang itong tinatawag natin election areas of grave concern. (First of all, there’s an intense political rivalry there, history of election-related violence whether physical injury killing and others, or there’s a threat of the National People’s Army and other threat groups. These increased in those places that’s why the number of areas of grave concern rose),” Albayalde explained.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the biggest share of election hotspots with 98, followed by Bicol with 72 and the Ilocos Region with 64.
The campaign season for Senate and party-list candidates officially began on February 12. Albayalde said the PNP will be continuing their gun ban, law enforcement operations, dismantling of private armed groups, contingency planning and security measures for vulnerable candidates.
He also said that the candidates are allowed two armed security personnel subject to Comelec approval.
Not a cause of worry
The PNP on Wednesda, February 13, assured the public that the classification of 701 areas as election hotspots should not be a cause of concern.
National police spokesperson Senior Supt. Bernard Banac said the declaration of hotspots lets the PNP assess if an area needs additional law enforcers.
“Wala pong dapat ipangamba ang ating mga kababayan na ganito na ang sitwasyon natin. Maaaring sa susunod po na linggo, nagbago na ito. (Our compatriots should have nothing to worry about our situation. Perhaps next week, this would change),” he told radio DZMM.