GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 Feb) – The conduct of the May 13 midterm local and national elections here and other parts of Region 12 was seen to run smoothly with the absence so far of any potential election watchlist area or hotspots in the region.
Lawyer Remlane Tambuang, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Region 12 director, said the entire region has remained clear of any possible election hotspot based on recent security assessments made by local police units and government troops operating in the area.
He cited that the region’s security situation has remained stable in the last several weeks and they don’t expect any major election-related incident to occur in the area in the run-up and during the election day.
None among the region’s four provinces and five cities were considered as threatened or have reported significant movements by armed groups that might possibly disrupt the conduct of the polls, he said.
“The PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) have not yet recommended the declaration of any locality within the region as a hotspot,” Tambuang told reporters.
Region 12, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
In November, the Comelec and PNP identified 15 provinces in the country as possible election watchlist areas but none of them were in Region 12.
In the previous elections, several areas in the region were initially declared as watchlist areas but most of them were later downgraded to just areas of concern.
Comelec earlier said the areas of concern are localities wherein poll-related rivalries have started to heat up but were still considered manageable in terms of their overall peace and order situation.
Those classified as election watchlist or hotspot category were areas that were already considered for placement or declaration under Comelec control due to the possible escalation of election-related violence, it said.
Tambuang said he has met with a number of politicians in the region in the past weeks and none of them have reported any confirmed threat on their lives.
“Most losing candidates in the area usually just accept the election results immediately and that had helped avert the occurrence of violent incidents in the past,” he said.
In January, Police Regional Office 12 officials said they were closely watching some localities due to the possible escalation of election-related violence.
Among those being monitored were Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat province, which have recorded violent incidents recently that might be related to the upcoming elections.
In Cotabato City, two relatives of a barangay captain in Rosary Heights 5, Cotabato City were killed in an ambush last December.
A grenade explosion also rocked in late December the residence of Mayor Emilio Salamanca of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat, along Malvar street in Tacurong City.
The attack, which was the second since November, was believed linked to the mayor’s reelection bid in the May polls. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)