SouthCot worried over ‘areas of concern’ for upcoming polls

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 Apr) – Authorities are closely monitoring the boundary areas of this city and South Cotabato province due to potential security problems that might disrupt the conduct of the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

Lawyer Jay Gerada, Commission on Elections (Comelec)-South Cotabato supervisor, said Thursday they have identified several boundary barangays as “areas of concern” for the May 14 elections due to the confirmed sightings of armed groups.

He said these barangays are located in the municipalities of Lake Sebu and T’boli where movements of New People’s Army (NPA) had been reported these past months.

Last year, the Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan reported movements of NPA rebels in villages within the boundaries of this city and South Cotabato.

A number of clashes also ensued these past months between troops from the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion and NPA rebels in upland villages in T’boli and Lake Sebu.

“But these are just a few barangays and there are already ongoing interventions to address these concerns,” Gerada said in a media forum.

He specifically cited the intensified intelligence and security operations by Army and local police units.

Citing their assessment, the official said there are no potential “areas of immediate concern” or hotspots in the area.

Comelec-South Cotabato has operational jurisdiction over this city and the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

In the 2016 local and national elections, Comelec also declared the province’s boundary villages as “areas of concern.”

But the conduct of the previous polls turned out generally “smooth, orderly and peaceful,” with no election-related incident recorded.

For the May 14 elections, Gerada said local police and army units have set three categories in terms of security deployment.

He said category 1 are areas with noted political rivalries but not considered intense while category 2 are for areas with intense political rivalries.

Category 3 are areas with history of political or election-related violence and validated terror threats, he said.

“So far, they only identified barangays under categories 1 and 2 here,” Gerada added. (MindaNews)