THE Philippine National Police (PNP) reminded anew the public of the security protocols being implemented to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on May 14.
The election period, which will last until May 21, has started last April 14.
The filing of candidacy also started on Saturday, April 14, and will end on Friday, April 20, while the campaign period will begin on May 4 until May 12.
With the start of the election period, the PNP in coordination with the Commission on Election (Comelec) has also began implementing the gun ban which means the bearing, carrying and transporting of firearms and other deadly weapons is not allowed.
The Comelec said that only the regular members of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies are allowed to carry and possess firearms noting that they should be in full and proper uniform and in the actual performance of election duty which means that an off-duty police or soldier may be apprehended if they are caught carrying their firearms or any deadly weapons.
The Comelec, however, may issue gun ban exemptions to other qualified individuals, "who by nature of their official duties, profession, business or occupation, such as but not limited to cashiers, disbursing officers, persons who are under the Witness Protection Program, etc., are considered as high risk individuals."
“Inaasahan ‘yung ating kababayan para hindi sila magkaroon ng problema tungkol sa kanilang mga baril ay ‘wag na muna nilang dadalhin dahil bawal na bawal na magdala tayo ng baril lalo na sa labas ng ating bahay kung wala tayong gun ban exemption from the Comelec,” PNP spokesperson John Bulalacao said.
To enforce the implementation of the gun ban, the Comelec has also tapped the PNP to establish checkpoint, at least one in each city or municipality.
Bulalacao, however, urged the public to be alert and vigilant while passing through a checkpoint and to immediately report any possible irregularities during its conduct.
He said checkpoints should be installed in well-lighted areas with proper signage where the name of the police commander and Comelec officer is also written and police officers should be in a full and proper uniform.
Bulalacao said policemen manning the checkpoints are only allowed to conduct visual inspection.
He said authorities can only ask the passenger to alight their vehicle if they identified him/her as a subject of an arrest warrant.
However, in order to avoid traffic jam and being subject of suspicion, Bulalacao reminded the public to roll-down the car windows and turn-on the light inside the vehicle when passing through a checkpoint.
Bulalacao said the PNP has identified a total of 5,744 barangays as election hot spots.
He said of which, 2,025 belongs to category 1 or the areas with intense rivalry among the candidates, there is a history of election-related violence and areas with the presence of private armed groups (PAGs), 3,448 under category 2 where there are reported rivalry among candidates, a history of election-related violence and PAGs and armed threats are present and 271 in category 3 where all critical factors exist, including the proliferation of loose firearms and the activities of criminal gangs.
Seven-hundred-thirty (730) barangays from the Bicol Region, 501 from Central Luzon, 414 from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 36 from Cordillera were included in Category 1 while while several barangays from all the regions nationwide except in Ilocos area are included in the Category 2.
In Category 3, 172 were in Armm, 48 in the Bicol region, 37 in Soccsksargen, 13 in Calabarzon and one in Central Visayas.
Bulalacao said the Bicol Region has the most number of areas included in the election watchlist while the ARMM with 832 areas and Central Luzon with 504 follows.
He said areas under election hotspot category 3 will have more deployed policemen to ensure the security and peace and order there.
On election day
As of posting, the PNP maintains to be in a full alert to ensure that there are enough police officers deployed on the street for the maintenance of peace and order.
Bulalacao said security preparations for the upcoming polls are already in place noting that the changing of alert status depends on the situation on the ground.
He said the PNP will establish Police Assistance Desks outside each schools which will be used as polling areas.
He said the 190,000 strong PNP will be on duty during the election day.
He said cops are not allowed to be roaming in the polling centers during the election time unless they are tapped to facilitate the voting just like in the Armm.
“Dapat nasa police assistance desks lang sila outside the polling centers. However if the policemen were tasked to act as election inspectors because teachers in certain areas opted not to acts as BEIs, then you can see policemen doing task usually being done by the teachers during election day,” he said.
Bulalacao said the Comelec also seek for the assistance of the police for the transporting of the ballot boxes.
“Basically Comelec ang nangunguna when it comes to election and they tap the PNP para sa seguridad at ikaaayos ng botohan at para sa safety ng mga election officers,” he said.
The PNP also imposes liquor ban during from 12 midnight of the day of the election until the 12 midnight of the following day.
The Interior and Local Government expressed optimism that the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will be peaceful and orderly noting that there is a down trend in the election related incidents since the 2010 local polls.
DILG Assistant Secretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said in the 2013 BSKE, there were only 57 reported incidents in connection to the elections, majority of which transpired in Mindanao while in the 2010 elections, there were 98 reported election-related incidents.
He said the martial law which is presently enforced at the Mindanao region may also contribute to the peace and order during the elections.
"Mindanao is under Martial Law, so I am expecting there is greater police presence, there is greater military presence, and security forces are deployed all over Mindanao, thus it would not be as intense as the last election," Malaya said. (SunStar Philippines)