THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the Cordillera is not discounting the possibility that the province of Abra would be included in the list of election areas of concern for the May 2019 midterm elections.
During the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Council (RJSCC), Comelec Cordillera Regional Director Julius Torres said the declaration of areas of concern would be based on the parameters set by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines since the electoral tribunal relies on the assessment of the two government security forces.
“I am still not sure but we have already received reports that based on a new list. Abra, I think, was included and we will not discount that Abra may be included in the list of areas which we have to focus on. But we are hopeful that through our coordination with AFP and PNP, Abra would be delisted from the list since we have achieved this in past elections,” Torres said.
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During the last Barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan Elections in May last year, the electoral tribunal employed a color coding system in identifying election hotspots or watchlist areas.
The color coding system replaced the terms “areas of concern and immediate areas of concern” in labeling election hotspots.
“Essentially, these are police matters and as agreed upon, we will task the Provincial Joint Security Control Center to talk among themselves and identify parameters that will be set in determining on whether an area should be considered as belonging to watchlist area or area of concern,” Torres said.
Based on the color coding system, areas will be classified as green, yellow, orange and red depending on the degree of election-related violence in that particular area.
Green hotspots represent no cause for concern in the area. Areas tagged as yellow are those that have a history of election-related violence, while orange areas are those with armed and rebel groups.
Red areas, meanwhile, are critical areas with a history of election-related violence and where armed and rebel groups could be found.
Torres said law enforcement agencies have yet to determine any election-related violence to date despite certain incidents being reported in the news.
In terms of interagency coordination with regards to the upcoming retirement of Police Regional Office Cordillera Director Rolando Nana in March, Torres assured coordination will flow smoothly as this has always been experienced in past elections.
“I don’t think that would be a problem because just like me, it is possible that I would not be assigned here in the Cordillera for the coming midterm elections which is normal. And I think even with the retirement of General Nana, some of the personnel of PRO - COR will still be there together with our provincial election supervisors who will be assisting them even if there would be a new regional director,” Torres added.