Partisan armed groups, election watch list areas under PNP scrutiny as poll period begins

January 14, 2019

ALL identified election watch list areas, partisan armed groups and guns-for-hire in the country are under scrutiny of the Philippine National Police as it mounts a massive security program to ensure the holding of a safe, fair and secure May 13 national and local elections, the Journal Group learned yesterday.

PNP chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde, as early as last year has ordered all 17 police Regional Directors (RDs) to supervise the final identification of threats to the 2019 mid-term polls particularly in towns and provinces  considered to be “elections areas of grave concern” due to the presence of different armed groups.

“Election hot spots” are towns or cities where uniformed personnel are augmented due to the existence of “violent incidents involving aspirants/candidates/supporters from the filing of candidacy to the election period,” authorities said.

As of last month, the PNP identified the following areas as election areas of concern: Sudipen and Balaoan towns in La Union; Jones, Isabela; Lemery, Batangas;  Roxas, Oriental Mindoro; Balud and Dimasalang municipalities in Masbate; Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur;  Cagayan de Oro City and the towns of Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Lantawan and Tipo-Tipo in Basilan; Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay and Shariff Saydona Mustapha in Maguindanao and Marawi City.

Added to the list was Daraga, Albay where Mayor Carlwyn Baldo has been accused of masterminding the December 22 assassination of AKO Bicol party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe and his policeman-bodyguard.

In a directive sent to all RDs by PNP Director for Operations, Director Ma-o R. Aplasca, the PNP chief last year  called for the identification of candidates vulnerable to attacks by their rivals or those who have been previously the target of foiled assassinations and those receiving constant death threats so that at least two security personnel can be assigned to them.

The order called on all RDs to supervise their provincial directors and Regional Intelligence Division chiefs in coming up with the final list of EWAs, PAGs, guns-for-hire as well as vulnerable candidates which will be used by the PNP leadership in finalizing their security and contingency plans for the May 2019 polls.

As required by the PNP leadership, all RDs submitted a list of municipalities and provinces in their areas of operations with intense political rivalries; the names of candidates--incumbent or not--who are considered as very likeable target of assassinations by their rivals and other enemies; candidates who have the tendency and potential to employ PAGs and guns-for-hire to eliminate their political opponents and intimidate voters as well as the areas where they are known to operate.

All RDs have also been instructed to identify private individuals, government officials and employees as well as members of different law enforcement agencies including the PNP and the Armed Forces and the Commission on Elections who are known for their partisan politicking activities that would most likely affect the outcome of a fair and credible election in their areas.

At the same time, all concerned officials were ordered to identify candidates known for their affiliation or strong support to the communist New People’s Army and drug syndicates; those who are most likely to be supported by the CPP/NPA and drug syndicates; and areas where the NPA are most likely to impose and demand so-called ‘Permit-to-Campaign’ fees from candidates in exchange for unhampered campaigning.

Lastly, all RDs were told to identify areas where access to election logistics and security support is difficult to deliver as well as areas with no communication links, meaning there is no means it can be reached thru radio, cellphone and Internet.

Gen. Albayalde said they are watching a total of 7,926 barangays in 896 municipalities which have been identified as election areas of concern during the  2019 mid-term polls.

These areas, the biggest number of them located in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao followed by Region 8 in Eastern Visayas and Region 7 in Central Visayas are being watched historically for election-related incidents and would be the subject of focus of different Regional Special Operations Task Groups, the PNP chief said.