6,195 barangays declared areas of concern

Non Alquitran - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A total of 6,195 barangays or 14.74 percent of the 42,028 barangays nationwide were declared by the Philippine National Police (PNP) as election watchlist areas (EWAs) in the barangay polls on Oct. 28.

Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr., PNP deputy chief for operations, said the number of EWAs could even increase during the campaign period that started last Friday up to the eve of elections.

Rojas said the police had intensified the campaign against loose firearms to prevent election-related violence, especially in remote areas of the country.

“We are at present intensifying the serving of search warrants and the setting up of checkpoints against loose firearms, and the conduct of ‘Oplan Katok’ to seize firearms with expired licenses,” said Rojas.

“By accounting for loose and expired licensed firearms, especially those owned by barangay officials, we could say that the occurrence of violence is very remote.”

Records obtained by The STAR showed that Metro Manila has 39 barangays tagged as EWAs.

National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Superintendent Marcelo Garbo Jr. however, updated the report on Metro Manila and said that there are now 39 barangays out of 1,704 villages.

Garbo said the 39 EWAs in Metro Manila were also considered as areas of concern (EAC).

The PNP earlier reported that there are only 10 EWAs in Metro Manila.

Rojas said an area could be tagged as EAC due to the existence of intense political rivalry and when an area is affected or threatened by terrorist groups.

The election areas of immediate concern (EAIC) is used in cases of election-related incidents during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in 2010 and of suspected politically motivated violent incidents against incumbent barangay officials since January 2013.

Election areas of grave concern (EAGC) are areas where there are already grave occurrences of politically motivated incidents resulting in the killing of candidates, Rojas added.

Regions 1 and 7 have one EAGC each.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) topped the list with the most number of EAC with 959 and 35 EAIC for a total of 994 EWAs or 39.92 percent of its 2,490 barangays.

Rounding up the top ten are Region 5 with 666 EWAs, Region 12 with 650, Region 7 with 588, Region 8 with 579, Region 6 with 435, Region 11 with 394, Region 10 with 390, Region 13 with 372, and Region 2 with 272.

Region 9 has 255 EWAs, Region 4A with 198, Region 4B with 154, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) with 146, Region 1 with 178, and Region 3 with 14.

According to Rojas, the list of EWAs was forwarded to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during its meeting last week.

He said a police regional director could recommend certain areas to be included in the EWAs when candidates for the barangay polls get involved in a crime incident.

The regional director can also recommend the postponement of the barangay elections in certain areas.

The PNP recorded several incidents involving candidates in the barangay elections since January but Rojas said they are still collating their figures on the number of casualties as of yesterday.

The PNP would deploy uniformed policemen in polling precincts and it is up to the regional director to realign forces, once the need arises, Rojas said.

As of yesterday, Rojas said the PNP has mobilized the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) in some areas of the country but there is no need as yet for the deployment of Special Action Forces, the combat unit of the PNP, he added.

Bohol elections

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II supported the call to postpone the Oct. 28 barangay elections in Bohol after the province was devastated by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake last Oct. 15.

Roxas said the postponement would allow Boholanos to rebuild their lives after the earthquake that claimed the lives of about 185 people, injured several others and destroyed multi-million pesos in property.

Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto had asked the Comelec to postpone the barangay elections in the province.

A day after the quake, Chatto has told President Aquino, who visited Bohol, that the provincial board will submit a resolution to the Comelec to postpone the polls originally set for Oct. 28.

Roxas went to Bohol to check on the relief and rescue operations.

Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office (PIO) chief, said the PNP is waiting for the directive of the Comelec with regard to the holding of barangay elections on Oct. 28 in earthquake-damaged areas in Cebu and Bohol.

He added that in the event the Comelec decides to postpone the elections in earthquake-damaged areas, the PNP would abide by the directive.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima has supported the proposal to postpone the barangay elections in Zamboanga City, while residents are trying to rebuild their lives after the clashes between government forces and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels for more than 20 days.

Purisima said he has ordered the Western Mindanao Regional Police (Region 9) to coordinate with local Comelec officials for the postponement of the barangay polls in Zamboanga City.

More than 400 followers of Misuari stormed Zamboanga City last Sept. 9 to seize the city hall and raise the flag of an “independent Bangsamoro Republik.”

Some 190 MNLF rebels were killed after more than three weeks of fighting, while 292 other suspects were either captured or have surrendered.

Twenty-three soldiers and policemen were killed and 180 were wounded, while 12 civilians were killed.

At least 120,000 villagers fled their homes as the rebels burned houses to derail the military operations to get the MNLF fighters.

Security forces have cleared two of the four barangays that were placed under siege by the MNLF in Zamboanga.

Meanwhile, communist New People’s Army rebels have reportedly been collecting permit-to-campaign fees from candidates in next week’s barangay elections in Southern Mindanao.

– With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edith Regalado



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