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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The Misamis Oriental Provincial Police Office recommended to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) the declaration of 23 villages in the province as areas of concern due to their history of intense political rivalries ahead of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 30 this year.
Colonel Ariel Philip Pontillas, the deputy director for administration of the Misamis Oriental police, said on Wednesday, September 13, that the recommendation was made during a recent Regional Joint Security Coordination Meeting.
Out of the 23 villages designated by the police as areas of concern or under the yellow category, 17 are located in the eastern part of the province, including eight barangays in Gingoog, while the remaining six are in the western part.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Misamis Oriental has requested augmentation forces from the regional police command and the military, who will be deployed to these villages to reinforce security checkpoints, primarily installed for enforcing the election gun ban.
Misamis Oriental, with over 667,000 voters in 504 barangays, comprises 24 municipalities and two component cities: El Salvador and Gingoog.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) reported that 17,990 individuals filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) for 8,064 various elective seats in 1,008 barangay and youth councils throughout the province.
Pontillas said the October elections in the province are expected to be “exciting” because candidates are familiar with each other, often involving family members, classmates, neighbors, and long-time friends in fierce competition.
Given the tense situation, the presence of police and even the military will be necessary, according to the official.
Adding to the challenge, Pontillas pointed out the threat posed by communist rebels in some of the province’s villages.
“There has been a persistent presence of [New People’s Army rebels] and a history of armed conflicts,” Pontillas revealed during a forum in Cagayan de Oro.
Army Major Francisco Garello, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, confirmed the existence of areas of concern in Misamis Oriental and concurred with the provincial police office’s assessment of frequent armed confrontations and sightings of NPA rebel groups in 23 barangays of the province.
These areas, he said, are characterized by intense political rivalries and a history of lawlessness in previous elections.
Areas of concern are classified into four categories: green, yellow, orange, and red.
- Green refers to areas that are generally peaceful and orderly.
- Yellow signifies areas of concern due to a history of election-related incidents in the past.
- Orange indicates areas of immediate concern with a serious armed threat.
- Red designates areas of grave concern, exhibiting combined factors under the yellow category, along with serious armed threats that may warrant a declaration of Comelec control.
Meanwhile, Cagayan de Oro does not have an area of concern recommendation, as of posting time.
About 3,396 individuals have filed their COCs for various positions in the city, which has 80 barangays and over 389,000 voters in two congressional districts.
For the first time, two city election officers will supervise the conduct of elections by district in the city, according to lawyer Ramil Acol, the elections officer for Cagayan de Oro’s 2nd District.
Until this year, all regular and mid-term elections in Cagayan de Oro were administered under one election office.
“Districting is implemented only in highly urbanized cities,” Acol said. – Rappler.com