The upsurge in the number of election watchlist areas in Western Visayas, from 49 to 315 barangays, must not be a cause for concern, Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional police director, said yesterday.
Negros Occidental topped the list with 126 barangays classified as election hotspots.
Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, yesterday said the election watchlist is still subject to validation by the Joint Peace Security and Coordinating Committee.
Cruz said their estimates were based on the criteria set by Camp Crame, that includes occurrence of election-related violence, existence of intense partisan political rivalry, possible employment of partisan armed groups by candidates, serious armed threats, and presence of rebels in barangays.
The report also appeared to be an over-estimation, since PNP national headquarters listed only 500 “areas of concern” nationwide.
Of the 315 barangays included in the election watchlist, 226 were classified as “areas of immediate concern” because of the presence of the New People’s Army, while 89 are “hotly-contested” with histories of violence.
Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said all armed groups, including the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, and individuals who possess guns, will be monitored by the Philippine Army and the National Police.
There were allegations that the RPA-ABB had been used by some unscrupulous politicians in past elections in Negros Occidental, which were vehemently debunked by the group.
Lactao, however, said the RPA-ABB is no longer being considered a threat to elections, with the imminent signing of a closure agreement between them and the government.* GPB