10 municipalities in Region 12 declared ‘areas of concern’

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 May) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Region 12 has declared 10 municipalities in the region as areas of concern or election watch list areas in connection with the May 9 general elections.

Lawyer Francisco Pobe, Comelec Region 12 director, said Friday such move was based on the results of the joint assessment conducted by police and military regarding the security situation in parts of the region.

He said the identified areas of concern comprise eight municipalities in Sultan Kudarat and two in Sarangani Province.

These are President Quirino, Bagumbayan, Isulan, Senator Ninoy Aquino, Columbio, Lebak, Kalamansig and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat, and Glan and Kiamba in Sarangani.

“This is mainly for precautionary purposes because of the confirmed presence of armed groups and the intense political rivalries in these areas,” he told MindaNews.

In Sultan Kudarat, Pobe said they are specifically concerned with the monitored movements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, “rogue” former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and several private armed groups.

He said they are closely watching Sarangani Province in the wake of the killing last month of a barangay chair in Glan town and the death threats received by re-electionist Mayor Raul Martinez of Kiamba town.

Police earlier recovered a decapitated head at a portion of Poblacion in Kiamba that was accompanied by a threatening note against Mayor Martinez.

Pobe said he directed police and Army units operating in these areas to intensify their security operations and maximize their presence or deployment in strategic places.

Citing their monitoring, he said the Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 has already implemented its deployment plan for the elections.

PRO-12 deployed starting on Friday two police personnel in each of the region’s polling precincts.

It also directed local police units to establish police assistance bases or centers in all polling centers.

Pobe reiterated that they have not declared any “hotspot” or area that should be placed under Comelec control for Monday’s polls.

“The entire region has been relatively peaceful these past months and we expect the same situation on election day,” he added.