21 villages in Sarangani, SK under tight watch by Comelec

Lawyer Michael Abas, Comelec Region-12 director, said that they included 15 barangays in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat and six others in three towns of Sarangani in their list of "areas of immediate concern" or hotspots due to the noted presence of communist and Moro rebels.

A report submitted by Sultan Kudarat election office to the Comelec regional office here cited that it considers the presence of Moro Islamic Liberation Front's (MILF) rebels and sympathizers in Palimbang as a major threat to the polls.

It claimed that between 50 and 70 percent of the residents in the area are either members or sympathizers of the rebel group.


The mountains of Palimbang presently serve as the base of the MILF's 104th brigade.

In Sarangani, acting Comelec supervisor Gertrudes Omana listed barangays Datal Anggas, Domolok, Pag-asa and Pamais, Sapu Masla in Malapatan and Malabod in Malungon as among the areas of immediate concern.

In Malapatan, Omana said they are specifically concerned over the presence of a big group of disgruntled former Moro National Liberation Front members in the area, which it described as a "sleeping giant" in terms of membership.

The report said Malapatan has a candidate running for vice mayor who is reportedly "a known foreign-trained (MNLF) commander." The subject was not named in the report.

In Alabel, Omana said they are also monitoring the movements of alleged New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the area.

Abas said they had sought for the deployment of additional troops in these areas to help thwart possible plans by the armed groups to disrupt the conduct of the polls, especially in the remote areas.

He said the troop movement was endorsed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Eastern Mindanao Command and is scheduled early Monday.  

Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani were among the 19 provinces in the country that were listed by the AFP as priority areas for troop augmentation on Monday.

The AFP has declared a nationwide red alert since Thursday.

The Election Day troop deployment would reportedly involve at least 54 military units, consisting of 11 infantry brigades and 29 infantry battalions from the Philippine Army and three brigades and 11 battalions from the Philippine Marines.