THE Provincial Joint Security Control Center (PJSCC), which is composed of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Philippine National Police (PNP) and Army in Negros Occidental, has recommended that Escalante City be placed under Orange Category or under areas of immediate concern from Yellow Category.
The move was made during the PJSCC meeting at the provincial Capitol Tuesday, April 23, following the killing of Escalante City reelectionist Councilor Bernardino Patigas.
Lawyer Tictac Villanueva, provincial election supervisor, said Escalante City will join other localities under Orange Category. The other areas in this category are Toboso, Isabela, Hinoba-an and Kabankalan City.
On Patigas killing
Negros Occidental Police Provincial Director Romeo Baleros said Tuesday, April 23, that three angles are now being considered in the killing of Patigas.
The angles being looked into are personal grudge, election-related and illegal gambling.
Baleros said the motorcycle used by Patigas when he was killed is allegedly owned by an illegal gambling operator in the area. He did not name the alleged gambling operator.
"But this is based on the initial investigation conducted by the police subject to confirmation. But as long as the investigation is ongoing, we will have the elimination of motive until we get the clearer results," Baleros said.
Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, for his part, said that surrenderers in Escalante City are also being looked into as some of them are attributed to Patigas.
"The statement of Karapatan pointing to the military as behind the killing of Patigas," Arevalo said. "Of course, we deny that because that's part of their propaganda and they just want to get the public attention so let's not mind them. Let the investigation take its course. As of now it is considered as election-related incidence as the one who died is an incumbent official and candidate."
He added that the question on who really killed Patigas will be answered later. The matter actually is not within the jurisdiction of the military because the investigation is being conducted and handled by the PNP.
Arevalo said that prevailing situation at the hinterlands of Escalante has softened after the encounter between military and the suspected NPA in Barangay Washington in November last year.
"There are several surrenderers. We have good developments in our campaign in the area. In fact, the area has not been considered a hotspot until the killing of Patigas happened," the Army commander in the province said.