CEBU CITY — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Cebu on Wednesday said it will concur with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in dealing with areas in the province considered as election hotspots in the upcoming midterm elections.
Cebu provincial election supervisor Jerome Brillantes said his office will coordinate with the Provincial Joint Coordinating Council (PJCC) in evaluating the peace and order situation in certain areas of the province which may affect the May 13 elections.
On Tuesday, PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde revealed that a total of 701 areas have been listed as election hotspots for the 2019 elections, but cited Central Visayas as region “without areas with grave concern,” along with Ilocos and National Capital Region (NCR).
Also on Tuesday, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 (Central Visayas) Regional Director Debold Sinas classified the towns of San Fernando and Tuburan as election hotspots. San Fernando in the south of the province and Tuburan in the northwest are placed under “red” category.
"Red" category means there is presence of political rivalry, threats of armed groups, and history of election-related violence in places declared as hotspots.
Brillantes cited the latest incident involving San Fernando Mayor Lakambini Reluya who was ambushed along with her husband, Ricardo, then president of the Association of Barangay Council in her town, and four others.
According to him, the Comelec would tackle in the PJCC meeting the issue involving the town of San Fernando where candidates in the May election are intensely engaged, following the gruesome incident in Talisay City last January 22 that injured Reluya and two others and killed Ricardo, the driver and a staff.
“Concern sad na nato ang situation sa San Fernando, labi na nga intense ang political rivalry diha (The situation in San Fernando is also our concern, specially that political rivalry in the area is so intense),” Brillantes said in a phone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
He, however, said that they will leave the police and the military to decide whether to recommend to the Comelec the declaration of the said areas as hotspots.
“Our police and our armed forces know best if they can handle. Kun moingon sila nga madala ra nila ug di na kinahanglan special attention, specially ang San Fernando, mas maayo, mas okay (If they will say they can handle the situation which no longer need of special attention, specially the case of San Fernando, it is better),” he said.
Under the list released by the PRO-7 director, five towns in Bohol were placed under category “red,” including Buenavista, Clarin, Danao, Pilar, and, Inabanga. Inabanga rose to limelight in 2017 when 11 Abu Sayyaf bandits intruded the town but were all killed before they could execute their plan to kidnap tourists.
Also, five towns in Negros Oriental were under category “red,” including Siaton, Manjuyod, Guihulngan City, Ayungon, and Mabinay, which are all known to be a New People’s Army (NPA) hotbed in the said province.
Areas listed under “orange” category in Cebu province include Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City. This category means there is a presence of private armed groups.
Other areas under this category are cities of Bogo, Danao, and Carcar. The towns of Pinamungajan and San Francisco, Camotes islands also fell under this category.
Sinas also listed the towns of Pilar, Poro, and Tudela also in Camotes Islands under category "yellow", because of the possibility that armed groups might disturb the conduct of elections there.
"Yellow" areas are those with a history of election-related incident in the last two elections, history of intense political rivalry, and areas that had been previously declared under Comelec Control. (PNA)
Photo by Junjie Mendoza/Cebu Daily News