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GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – A mayor in Maguindanao del Sur has called on the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) to remove his town from its list of election hotspots ahead of the October 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, saying the designation was baseless.
Pagalungan Mayor Salik Mamasabulod told the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) on Thursday, September 7, “There has been no political violence recorded in our town. Why include it in the list of hotspots?”
The list of hotspots includes the towns of Pagalungan, Rajah Buayan, Datu Paglas, Pandag, Datu Piang, Sultan sa Barongis, Datu Salibo, and Buluan.
During the meeting, 1st Lieutenant Ronaldo Diso, commander of Charlie Company of the Army’s 90th Infantry Division, said there was currently a “zero threat” in his unit’s area of responsibility, which includes Pagalungan.
Christina Dalope, Pagalungan election officer, also expressed surprise at the town being labeled as an election hotspot, noting that nothing untoward occurred in the town even during the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC).
She acknowledged a minor altercation during the COC filing but clarified that it was not election-related and was promptly resolved.
Mamasabulod has also opposed a request by the Maguindanao del Sur Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) to have policemen act as election inspectors in his town during the barangay and SK elections.
He argued that the town has enough teachers who can serve as election inspectors, and there is no need for the police to take their place. He said the police could only step in if teachers are unable to serve in the election precincts due to disturbances.
Maguindanao del Sur Governor Mariam Mangudadatu, the PPOC chairperson, said the list was based on evaluations by the police and the military, identifying areas in the province that require additional security measures during the elections.
Such an evaluation of the security sector prompted the PPOC to ask that police officers in a nearby region be sent to the province to augment security forces and serve as election precinct workers.
During the PPOC meeting on Tuesday, September 5, a motion was unanimously approved, seeking the deployment of police officers from the Soccsksargen region to the seven Maguindanao towns.
Out of the 1,047 policemen in the province, only over 500 are available and on duty, with the others undergoing schooling and training, Mangudadatu said.
Mangudadatu said the designation of areas of concern was aimed at ensuring safety and preserving the integrity of the voting process.
She said the PPOC was also considering adding seven more towns to the list.
“What we are after here is that we are able to ensure safety and preserve the integrity of the balloting,” Mangudadatu said. – Rappler.com