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MAGUINDANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) is closely monitoring Marawi and Lamitan cities and 30 towns in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), along with 63 villages in Cotabato province that have been designated as areas of grave concern ahead of the barangay and youth elections scheduled for October 30.
Brigadier General Allan Nobleza, the police director for the Bangsamoro region, has recommended that these areas be placed under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The police’s list includes 13 towns in Maguindanao del Sur, two in Maguindanao del Norte, eight in Lanao del Sur, including Marawi City, seven in Basilan, and two in Sulu.
Nobleza made this announcement while presenting two men who allegedly violated the election gun ban in Lanao del Sur during a press conference in Parang, Maguindanao del Norte, on Saturday, September 9.
The “areas of grave concern” or those in the “red category” per province are the following:
Maguindanao del Sur
- Rajah Buayan
- Sultan Sa Barongis
- Datu Hoffer Ampatuan
- Datu Piang
- Datu Salibo
- Datu Saudi Ampatuan
- Datu Unsay
- Shariff Aguak
- Shariff Saydona Mustapha
Lanao del Sur
- Marawi City
Maguindanao del Norte
- Datu Odin Sinsuat
- Sultan Kudarat
- Hadji Mohammad Adjul
- Tabuan Lasa
- Ungkaya Pukan
- Lamitan City
- Parang and Indanan
No town in Tawi-Tawi province was on the PNP’s list of areas of grave concern.
The 63 villages in BARMM’s Special Geographic Areas (SGA) within Cotabato province have been designated as areas of grave concern.
Cotabato City, the regional center of BARMM, was categorized as an “area of immediate concern” under the orange code, along with 29 towns.
The PNP also identified 36 towns in BARMM as “areas with security concern” or under the yellow code.
Nobleza said some 81.5% of the region’s 119 municipalities are considered “areas of concern” ahead of the October barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
He stressed the need to establish stringent security measures in these areas due to the potential for politics-related violence. Other concerns include family disputes and political rivalries in the region, which may influence the involvement of private armed groups, thereby adversely affecting the peaceful conduct of elections.
Police have noted an increase in internal armed conflicts stemming from land disputes, family feuds, and political rivalries in the region, and they anticipate that the upcoming elections could exacerbate the situation.
The police also noted the proliferation of loose firearms as a critical factor that could impact the conduct of elections.
Among the issues and concerns being addressed are a shortage of personnel, communication challenges, electricity problems, and accessibility issues.
Meanwhile, police have filed criminal charges against two men for violating the election gun ban in Malabang, Lanao del Sur.
Nobleza said the suspects, Mamayog Sidik Gampong and Haniboy Sarip, were caught on camera indiscriminately firing M-16 rifles in Malabang during the filing of certificates of candidacy on August 31. – Rappler.com