POLICE are concentrating on identified election hot spots where they are targeting partisan armed groups and their loose weapons which may be used to disrupt the forthcoming May 13 national and local elections, Philippine National Police spokesman Colonel Bernard M. Banac said yesterday.
According to Banac, PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde has ordered police forces to coordinate with the Armed Forces all their security efforts specifically in Mindanao and some parts of Luzon and Visayas which have been declared as election hot spots by the Commission on Elections amid validated threats by various groups to disrupt the May polls.
Banac said that since last January 13 up to last Tuesday, 10 individuals have been killed while 11 were wounded in 35 violent incidents related to the mid-term polls. Fourteen other victims were unharmed in those poll-related incidents, he added.
“Sa ngayon umabot sa 35 na mga insidente na masasabi nating election-related incidents ang naitala na patuloy iniimbestigahan at bina-validate ng ating mga investigation teams,” he said.
He said that the fatalities were either candidates or their supporters whose killings were automatically tagged as election-related since it happened within the election period which will end on June 12.
Already on full alert, the PNP will deploy 160,000 personnel to secure the public during the elections amid the identification of 941 hot spots or almost 58 percent of 1,634 cities and municipalities across the country.
Banac said that the PNP is also making the necessary adjustments in its intensified security preparations as the Comelec declared the entire Mindanao Island Group as a Category Red Election Hotspot.
The Mindanao Island Group is joined by other Category Red hotspots Jones, Isabela; Lope de Vega, Northern Samar; and the entire province of Abra.
The Comelec said the decision was reached in the wake of suspected election-related incidents in the last two elections, together with serious armed threats posed by the New People’s Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf Group and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other analogous groups in Mindanao.
Shortly after the campaign period for the national election started last February, Gen. Albayalde said 701 areas in the country have been identified as poll hot spots.
The PNP chief said they include 223 areas of concern (yellow category), 382 areas of immediate concern (orange category), 94 areas of grave concern (red category), and two areas under Comelec control.
Of the 94 areas of grave concern he mentioned last February, 27 are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 19 in the Bicol region, seven each in Calabarzon and Western Mindanao, six each in Mimaropa and Western Visayas, five in Northern Mindanao, four each in Soccsksargen and the Cordillera region, three in Eastern Visayas, two each in Central Luzon and Davao region and one each in Caraga and Cagayan Valley.
Regions without areas of grave concern include Ilocos, National Capital Region (NCR) and Central Visayas. In Metro Manila, the cities of Manila, Caloocan, Pasay, Mandaluyong and Malabon were classified as areas of concern.