GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/02 May) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Region 12 has not declared any “hotspot” in the region in connection with the May 9 general elections.
Lawyer Francisco Pobe, Comelec Region 12 director, said the entire region remains relatively peaceful and they have not recorded any major poll-related incident in the area since the start of the election period in January.
But he said the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12, through local police units, has identified some municipalities as possible election watchlist areas or areas of concern in the run-up and during the election day.
“For hotspots or areas that need to be placed under Comelec control, we have none here in Region 12,” he said.
The official said they have directed the PRO-12 to properly categorize the election watchlist areas and set measures to address problems that might come up.
He said they have been also conducting regular security assessments with the police, Army and other law enforcement units.
Pobe said they have already set the security measures for the deployment of the vote counting machines and other election paraphernalia to the polling precincts.
Comelec-12 has jurisdiction over the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Kidapawan.
Although administratively a part of Region 12, Cotabato City is under the Comelec in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In the 2013 local and national mid-term elections, Comelec-12 identified the municipalities of Tampakan, T’boli and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato, and Lambayong, Kalamansig, Columbio and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat as election watchlist areas.
According to the Philippine National Police, the watchlist areas are determined based on their history of intense partisan political rivalry, past incidents that are considered politically-motivated and election-related, presence of threat groups, and the proliferation of firearms.
For the classification, a certain area is under Category 1 if the incidents there are purely political while towns and cities where there are threat groups fall under Category 2.
An area will be declared under Category 3 or hotspot if it meets the parameters under Category 1 and 2.
Senior Supt. Robert Badian, PRO-12’s deputy regional director for operations, assured that their security plan for the May 9 elections is already in place.
He said all police units in the region have completed their preparations for the polls and are ready for their assigned duties.
Badian added that they have assigned around 1,000 policemen under the regional office as standby augmentation unit during the polls.(MindaNews)