LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — Of the four provinces in Region 1, Pangasinan is the only one considered as an election watch area by the Police Regional Office 1 (PRO1) due not only to the province’s enormous size but also to the presence of an intense political rivalry particularly those vying for the top elective post.

In the 2013 elections, three of the four provinces in the region – Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte – were under the PRO1 watch list.

“Based on our analysis, there is an intense political rivalry… an extreme desire to serve our candidates,” said PRO 1 acting regional director, Chief Superintendent Ericson Velasquez during the 25th PNP Foundation Day Celebration at the Pangasinan Provincial Police Office (PPPO) on Wednesday, January 27.

“But all of them (candidates) are professionals. I think they will not go beyond what is expected from them as gentlemen,” he added.

Pangasinan gubernatorial bets are present – Liga ng mga Barangay provincial federation president, Board Member Amado “Pogi” Espino III, son of Governor Amaso Espino Jr. and former fifth district representative Mark Cojuangco.

Gov. Espino, who is now on his third and final term of office, is running for fifth district representative against Cojuangco’s wife, present 5th District Rep. Kimi Cojuango.

Velasquez, however, clarified that they consider Pangasinan only as a watch area and not a hotspot.

“The perception on the term hotspot is there is a brewing flashpoint that could turn into a violent incident and in the case of election watch area, you’ll just see what factors will make the area develop into hotspot,” he said.

He noted that in terms of severity, an election watch area is calmer than a hotspot.

Still, Velasquez underscored that they are monitoring every aspect of movement of political candidates as well as the criminality in the area.

He further noted that most of the times, their focus is not only on the candidates but on the candidates’ supporters.

He said, “our analysis is the problem is not on the candidates themselves but their supporters. They tend to create an atmosphere that will make candidates feel that they are needed by them.”

At the same time, PPPO officer-in-charge provincial director, Sr. Supt. Edgar Alan Okubo disclosed that there is a plan to conduct a peace covenant signing among political bets in the province.

Meanwhile, as part of the PNP Day celebration, the PPPO presented various firearms surrendered to them by political and private individuals for safekeeping this election period.

Former mayor of the town of Rosales and now seeking to return as the local chief executive in the coming election, Ricardo Revita, surrendered the most number of firearms or a total of 21 firearms including sniper, shotguns, and high-powered guns.

“This is in support of the PNP and Comelec goal to attain peaceful elections,” Revita said as he enjoined his fellow political candidates to do the same.

After the PNP Day program, a command conference among chiefs of police (COPs) in Pangasinan was held.

Velasquez briefed the COPs on Oplan Lambat Sibat with emphasis on crime incidence on seven focused crimes namely robbery, theft, murder, homicide, physical injuries, illegal drugs, and emerging political situation in every town or the whole province.

“Oplan Lambat Sibat” came from two police operation plans: ‘lambat’ meaning wider dragnet through more number of checkpoints, mobile-beat patrols, Oplan Sita, and intensified serving of warrants; and ‘sibat’ which underscores an intelligence driven operations or targeted actions against crime groups. PNA/