No hotspots in SouthCot for barangay polls – police

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 9 Oct) – — Police authorities in South Cotabato have not identified any potential watchlist areas or hotspots in any part of the province for the Oct. 28 barangay elections.

Supt. James Gulmatico, South Cotabato deputy provincial police director for administration, said Wednesday their assessment showed that the area’s peace order situation has remained relatively stable and they have not monitored any major security threat that might disrupt the conduct of the polls.

He said the province has also remained clear in terms of violent incidents that might be related to the upcoming elections.

“So far, we don’t even have any areas of concern and we have not received any report regarding possible security threats to any candidate,” he said in a media forum.

According to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the “areas of concern” are localities wherein poll-related rivalries have started to heat up but are still considered manageable in terms of their overall peace and order situation.

Those under the election watchlist or hotspot category comprises areas that were already considered for placement or declaration under Comelec control due to the possible escalation of election-related violence.

But Gulmatico said they are closely monitoring several areas in the province due to their remoteness, past records of election-related violence and confirmed presence of rebel groups, specifically the New People’s Army (NPA).

He specifically cited several remote barangays in the municipalities of Tampakan, T’boli, Lake Sebu and Surallah.

Tampakan town was previously considered as a hotspot area due to the recorded election-related murders in the locality during the 2001 and 2004 local and national elections.

But the area’s security classification has been downgraded by the PNP and Comelec due to its “clean record” in terms of election-related violence since the 2007 polls.

T’boli and Surallah towns were cited as a potential area of concern in the past due to the reported movements in the past months of NPA rebels and other criminal elements.

Lake Sebu’s Barangay Ned, which is among the province’s remotest areas, had made the list due to the confirmed presence of armed groups and the escalation of violence in some parts of the area since last year due to a long-drawn land dispute.

Despite their previous records, Gulmatico pointed out that these areas have not posted any violent incident or security problem in the last May 13 local and national midterm elections.

“We’ve even doubled our security efforts to maintain our clean record for the barangay elections,” he added.