CAMP SALIPADA K. PENDATUN, Maguindanao del Norte (MindaNews / 11 September) — Thirty-two municipalities and the 63 villages of the Special Geographic Area (SGA) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have been classified as “areas of grave concern” (red code) for the October 30, 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
At least 119 municipalities comprise the BARMM, which covers the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Marawi, Cotabato and Lamitan. The 63 villages from six towns in North Cotabato opted to join the Bangsamoro region during the plebiscite in 2019.
Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, PRO-BAR director, announced the towns in the region under the red code category last Friday during the presentation here of two suspects involved in the indiscriminate firing of guns in Malabang, Lanao del Sur. (Read story here)
“This is so far the only election-related incident we recorded since the start of the filing of COCs (Certificates of Candidacy). Because of our pressure, they came out and surrendered,” Nobleza said.
He said that PRO-BAR has yet to establish if the two suspects are part of a private armed group (PAG) in Malabang town.
“They are not in our profile of PAG (members), but maybe they could be an emerging group,” Nobleza said in a press briefing.
Under Red Code
Nobleza stressed that appropriate security measures will be implemented in Malabang, which is one of the eight towns in Lanao del Sur placed under areas of grave concern or on red code. The others are Marawi City, Tubaran, Maguing, Binidayan, Butig, Madalum and Marogong.
Maguindanao del Sur has the highest number of localities under red code at 13.
These are the municipalities of Rajah Buayan, Sultan Sa Barongis, Datu Hoffer Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Datu Salibo, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Buluan, Mangudadatu and Pandag.
While Shariff Saydona Mustapha town was included, the town’s election officer, Casana Mangoramas, said “all candidates are unopposed” – from the 16 bets for barangay chairs, 113 candidates for barangay councils, 16 bets for SK chairpersons and 102 for youth kagawads.
Five other towns in the province have all their bets for barangay chairpersons unopposed.
Maguindanao del Sur election supervisor Atty. Allan Kadon said the towns with unopposed bets for barangay chairman include Datu Anggal Midtimbang with seven barangays, Datu Hoffer with 11, Datu Unsay with eight, Guindulungan with 11 and Sharif Aguak with 13.
In Maguindanao del Norte, the towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat and Sultan Kudarat have been placed under the red code category.
In Basilan, the areas of grave concern are Lamitan City, Hadji Mohammad Adjul, Sumisip, Tabuan Lasa, Tipo-Tipo, Tubaran and Ungkaya Pukan.
In Sulu, the towns of Parang and Indanan were included in the red alert category.
Tawi-Tawi had none.
Lesser security concerns
Cotabato City, which is now part of the BARMM, is in orange code category or an “area of immediate concern.” Overall, there are 29 municipalities placed under areas of immediate concern.
Nobleza said that 36 towns are under the yellow category or “areas with security concern”.
He noted that 81.5 percent of the 119 municipalities in BARMM have been placed under different areas of concern.
Nobleza said that based on their assessment, the political landscape in the region has suffered from politically-motivated violent incidents.
“(Some of) these (incidents) involved elected government officials, which indicate the need to establish tight security measures on the ground in preparation for the BSK elections,” he said in a report.
Among the other concerns are family feuds (rido) and political rivalries in the region that will influence the utilization of Private Armed Groups (PAGS), which could adversely affect the peaceful conduct of the BSKE, the report added.
The increase in internal armed conflict between and among “peace-inclined” armed groups, which emanated mainly from land dispute/grabbing, family feuds and political rivalry, is expected to occur before and after of the BSKE, it said.
The BSKE 2023 is expected to be riddled with violence and intense political rivalry at the barangay level, including the resurgence of dormant ridos in the area due to the participation of feuding parties in the elections, the report noted.
The proliferation of loose firearms is a critical factor that would affect the conduct of the BSKE, it said.
Among the issues and concerns confronting the police are lack of personnel, communication, electricity problems and accessibility concerns, Nobleza said.
Nobleza recommended that localities placed under areas of grave concern or red code be placed under the control of the Commission of Elections.
He also sought additional forces from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to strengthen the security measures in the region for the upcoming elections. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)