Tight watch on Mindanao hotspots

THE Philippine National Police will be tightly guarding Mindanao and other areas in Luzon and Visayas which have been declared as election ‘hotspots’ by the Commission on Elections amid validated threats by various groups to disrupt the peaceful holding of the May 13 national and local elections, PNP spokesman, Senior Superintendent Bernard M. Banac said yesterday.

“The PNP will abide by the declaration of the Comelec on election hotspots and make the necessary adjustments in our intensified security preparations. We shall continue to perform our mandate to enforce the law and ensure peace and order in the run up to the May 13 polls,” said Banac in a statement after the Comelec declared the entire Mindanao region and some parts of Luzon and Visayas as poll ‘’hotspots.’

According to Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, the poll body has declared the entire Mindanao as a Category Red Election Hotspot, for purposes of the 2019 National and Local Elections.

He said that the Mindanao Island Group is joined by other Category Red hotspots Jones, Isabela; Lope de Vega, Northern Samar; and the entire province of Abra.

“The Category Red classification may warrant the motu proprio declaration of Comelec control over the  affected area, and the Comelec En Banc may direct the augmentation of personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the need arises,” he added.

The Comelec said the decision was reached 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, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf Group and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front  and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other analogous groups in Mindanao.