Officials say no election hotspots in GenSan, South Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 October) – There are no possible hotspots or “areas of immediate concern” so far in this city and nearby South Cotabato province, authorities said as the filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 2016 general elections entered its second day on Tuesday.

Lawyer Jay Gerada, Commission on Elections (Comelec)-South Cotabato supervisor, said this was based on the initial assessment conducted by local police and military units for the five-day poll-related activity.

He said Comelec Region 12 held a regional command conference last week to assess the region’s security situation and set the necessary measures for various election-related activities.

“There were so far no identified areas of immediate concern in South Cotabato,” Gerada said.

Comelec-South Cotabato has jurisdiction over this city, Koronadal City and the province’s 10 municipalities.

But Gerada said they are not leaving any chances in terms of the security measures, especially in election offices.

For the filing of the COCs, which will end on Friday, he said all election offices in the area have detailed police personnel.

He said the deployment, which was ordered by the Police Regional Office 12, is aimed to ensure the “peaceful, smooth and orderly” filing of COCs by local aspirants.

As of Tuesday morning, Gerada said they have not encountered any major problem in line with the filing of the COCs.

“We expect this to continue until the closing of the COC filing on Friday,” he said.

Senior Supt. Jose Briones Jr., South Cotabato police director, said they are currently on full alert and have implemented maximum personnel deployment in the entire province.

He said they are closely watching some localities in the province that are considered as potential “areas of concern.”

“Previously, there were declared areas of concern due to sightings of the New People’s Army and these could be included in the same list for the 2016 elections,” he said.

In the 2013 elections, authorities also cleared the province and this city of “areas of immediate concern” but declared two towns and a remote village as “areas of concern.”

These were the municipalities of Tampakan and T’boli, and Barangay Ned in Lake Sebu.

The three areas were identified as possible areas of concern based on previous records of election-related violence and the confirmed presence of armed groups that might disrupt the conduct of the polls.

In the previous elections, the Philippine National Police (PNP) identified the potential hotspots or areas of immediate concern based on the extent of insurgency problem, the intense political rivalry and records of election-related incidents during the last three elections.

A PNP briefer cited that “the absence of any of the three parameters automatically places an area as just under watch or an election area of concern.” (MindaNews)