AFTER the Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared the entire region of Mindanao as an election hotspot under Category Red because of armed threats, security forces are bracing to ensure the safe conduct of midterm election this coming May.
“This developed in the wake of suspected election-related incidents in the last two elections, together with serious armed threats posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other analogous groups,” Comelec said in a statement.
Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ezra Balagtey said aside from that, the reason why Mindanao was placed under Comelec control was because the island remains under martial law and threats of terrorism remain prevalent.
“In as far as the implementing rules and regulations, we are still awaiting sa ipapadala ng higher headquarters at Comelec but nonetheless, existing naman yong joint security committee ng AFP-PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines- Philippine National Police) sa mga regions, province and municipalities in as far as the security of election is concern,” Balagtey said.
He said the declaration might be aimed at synchronizing efforts of concerned agencies to ensure the peaceful conduct of national poll despite of prevailing security situation.
“It (security) will be enhanced with the declaration na under control ang buong Mindnao kaya nga dineclare because of existing threat of terrorism here in Mindanao,” he added.
On the other hand, Davao Police Regional Office (PRO 11) spokesperson Chief Inspector Jason Baria said the decision of the Comelec could have been the result of the assessment during the National Peace and Order Council (NPOC) last week wherein all top officials of police, AFP, Comelec and President Rodrigo Duterte were present and discussing the upcoming election.
In the region, there is already a categorization for election watchlist areas as the result of intelligence gathering and security assessment of combined security.
There are 1,162 barangays in Davao region and of this number, 13 barangays are classified as Category Red or election areas of grave concern; 823 are green or no problem and cause for concern; 233 are in yellow or areas with history of political unrest; and 83 are in orange, which indicates presence of armed groups.
In Davao City, there is zero red area, 130 barangays are in green, and 52 are orange.
Davao del Sur has 63 barangays in green, 32 in yellow, 17 in orange, and 13 in red. In Davao Occidental, 97 are green, seven yellow, and one is orange. In Davao del Norte, 186 barangays are green and 37 are yellow. In Davao Oriental, 165 are green and 18 are yellow. In Compostela Valley, 169 are green and 68 orange.