GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 10 May) – Police and Army units in Region 12 beefed up security in at least six municipalities due to the possible occurrence of violent incidents in line with Monday’s local and national midterm elections.
Lawyer Renato Magbutay, Commission on Elections (Comelec)-12 acting regional director, said the concerned municipalities were considered as election “hotspots” based on assessments made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
He said two of these are in Sarangani, two in Sultan Kudarat and one each in South Cotabato and North Cotabato.
The Police Regional Office-12 and the provincial election offices had identified the hotspot areas as Maitum and Kiamba towns in Sarangani, Banga in South Cotabato, President Quirino and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat, and Pikit in North Cotabato.
“These are classified under (category) red-delta or the hotspot areas,” Magbutay said in an interview.
Comelec placed the entire Mindanao in March under category “red” or “election areas of grave concern” based on the history of election-related violence and the monitored intense partisan political rivalry and serious threats from armed groups.
The official said PNP and AFP units in the region already made security arrangements and contingencies in the identified hotspot areas.
Citing the latest assessment, he said the security in these areas are currently under control and manageable.
Since the start of the election period last Jan. 13, Magbutay said they have not recorded any violent incident that is directly related to the elections.
“It’s not something that we should really worry since there has been beefing up of security already,” he said.
In terms of preparations, the official said all Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) were already delivered and tested at the polling precincts.
He said they did not encounter any major problem with the final testing and sealing of the machines Friday and is all set for Monday’s polls.
Magbutay said the contingency VCMs and secure digital or SD cards were already received by the four provincial election offices on Thursday.
He said they 350 policemen who were trained for electoral board duties are already on standby and ready for deployment if necessary.
Magbutay said 200 of these are for North Cotabato while the 150 are for South Cotabato and Sarangani.
“We will tap them in case some teachers will back out from election duty. They will not be fielded if there will be no problems with our EBs,” he said. (MindaNews)