5 Maguindanao election hot spots to be placed under ‘areas of immediate concern’

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 8 Oct) – Police and military authorities have considered five towns in Maguindanao as hot spots and to be placed in “areas of immediate concern” category to prevent violence and ensure smooth 2016 local and national elections.

Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan, Maguindanao police director, told members of the Maguindanao Peace and Order Council (MPOC) in a meeting Wednesday that violent incidents related to elections are likely to erupt in these towns unless a comprehensive security plan is in place.

He identified these towns as Datu Unsay, Rajah Buayan, Sultan sa Barongis, Sultan Mastura and Matanog.

“This is based on our intelligence information. Violence could erupt in these areas due to the presence of lawless elements, private armed groups and possible intense rivalry among politicians,” Muksan said.

“We will continue monitoring, we will compare notes with the military,” he added.

Although surprised Matanog was included in the list to be included in “areas of immediate concern” category, Mayor Mohammad Kits Guro welcomed the inclusion of his town.

On second thought, Guro said, the recommendation will work for the good of the people of Matanog. “I think it is good for us because an increased police and military presence will ensure peaceful and credible elections,” Guro said. “I see it as positive development.”

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division who has overall jurisdiction of all military forces in Maguindanao, was present during the MPOC meeting. He said police and military officials, including intelligence operatives will regularly meet “to compare notes, discuss the information we have and plan better.”

“The illegal armed groups always pose threats to any exercise like election,” Pangilinan said, referring to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Lawyer Sarip Tago, provincial director of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), told MPOC participants that the poll body is leaving the security issues to police and military authorities. His concern was the practice of politicians using police and military as security escorts.

“We should not make use of our police and soldiers as security escorts. You can hire highly trained security guards,” Tago suggested.

Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, who chairs the MPOC and who is seeking his last term as provincial governor in next year’s election, has urged political leaders to level up the campaign in Maguindanao.

“Let us do away with violence, bloody elections that will only add to the negative impression about Maguindanao,” he said in Filipino.

“Please, let us not make this election like sparring [of a boxing bout]. It’s just a numbers game and may the best man win,” Mangudadatu said.

Maguindanao has about 500,00 registered voters.