Inclusion of 5 provinces on poll hotspot list mulled

MANILA At least five provinces are likely to be included either in the list of hotspots in next year's midterm elections, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said these include the provinces of Abra, Masbate, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Zamboanga del Norte.

Ito yung hindi nawawalasa ating listahan (These provinces are always on our list). Ilalabas natin (We will release the) final list after end of filing of COC (Certificate of Candidacy). Wala pa tayong (We don't have) validated list coming from different regions at dito sa NHQ (National Headquarters), kailangan pa i-validate (we need to validate the) previous list. Although we have previous list with these circumstances, itong mga lugar na malaki ang posibilidad na masama (it is possible that these places will be included in the list), he explained.

The filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COC) for next year's polls started on Oct. 11 and will end on Oct. 17.

As of May, Albayalde identified 7,926 barangays in 896 municipalities as areas of concern or election hotspots.

Most of these, he said, are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, followed by Regions 8 (Eastern Visayas) and 7 (Central Visayas).

The PNP earlier formed Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) to oversee the implementation of security preparations for the 2019 midterm elections.

Albayalde said the SOTG is tasked to address issues on election-related violence, a problem which has long hounded Philippine polls.

We will be appointing directors from (the) Directorate Integrated Police Operations to supervise the regions, particularly the provinces. Under their jurisdiction na i-supervise nilang mabuti pagdating naman sa (that they will supervise closely in terms of) election-related concerns, he added.

Meanwhile, Albayalde said that no member of the PNP has so far filed a COC for next year's polls.

He said there is still no candidate requesting for police escorts.

Wala pa rin (There is none yet). It would be limited. Hindi lahat ng kakandidato bibigyan natin. Doon lang sa nakikita natin na medyo mainit. Kung kaya namin, mas maganda para mawala yung tensyon, mabantayan mabuti mga kakandidato (Not all candidates will be given police escorts. If we can, in order to curb tensions, every candidate will be given security) but we cannot do that. Mauubos yung tao natin(We will run out of personnel). Remember kapag (when it is) election time, kailangan mga pulis natin para magbantay (we need police officers to be on the lookout), he explained.

The PNP will provide two security personnel to qualified candidates for next year's elections.

PNP spokesperson, Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr., said poll bets requesting for police security should comply with the requirements set by the PNP, which includes an assessment to determine if there is indeed a threat on their lives.

But if they want to have more, then they have to hire the services of security agencies at their own expense, he added.

Durana said the PNP will also provide security services for non-incumbent candidates, who may qualify for protective security detail.

Albayalde earlier ordered all police commanders down to the municipal level to talk with all the candidates, including the incumbent officials, as part of the threat assessment amid the spate of killings of local government officials.

The PNP said tensions between rival candidates are expected to increase during the campaign period leading to the day of elections.

Since August this year, Albayalde said the PNP has neutralized 82 gun-for-hire syndicate members and confiscated of 35 firearms of assorted caliber.

He said focused intelligence operations are now being directed against more or less 77 active PAGS with 2,071 members believed armed with an estimated 1,582 firearms. A large majority of these active PAGs operate in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency