Security measures in place as campaign period kicks off Tuesday

MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) said security measures are now in place as the campaign period for senatorial candidates and party-list groups kicks off on Tuesday.

“With regards to preparation, of course prepared na prepared na tayo (We are very much prepared),” PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said on Monday in a media interview after Monday’s flag-raising ceremony in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Albayalde said police personnel are ready for deployment to prevent any untoward incidents during the campaign period for the May 13 mid-term elections.

“So far we have no (recorded) incidents. Hopefully it will continue to be no election related violent incidents,” he said.

He said the PNP is still validating the new list of elections hotspots in coordination with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Actually, nadagdagan pa (there are more areas). We have a new list. We will be providing the public with a new one. Meron tayong bina-validate na bago based doon sa bagong parameters na binigay sa atin ng Comelec (We are still validating the new list based on new parameters given to us by the Comelec),” he said.

Albayalde said he will announce the new list of hotspots on Tuesday.

Last month, Albayalde said 19 towns, cities and municipalities in Luzon and Mindanao were placed under the election watch-list areas (EWAs).

These, he said, are the towns of Sudipen and Balaoan in La Union; Jones in Isabela; Lemery in Batangas; Roxas town in Oriental Mindoro; Balud and Dimasalang in Masbate; and Daraga town in Albay.

The list also includes Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur; Cagayan de Oro City; Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Tipo-Tipo and Lantawan in Basilan; Sultan Dumalundong, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Datu Unsay in Maguindanao; and Marawi City.

Albayalde said areas have been included in the list due to history of violent elections as well as presence of armed groups such as NPA rebels declared by the US and European Union as terrorists.

Meanwhile, the PNP chief said some of the elite police forces deployed in areas where the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite was held in Mindanao will serve as ‘stay-behind force’ until all the procedures for the plebiscite is done.

He said some areas where the BOL plebiscites held on Jan. 21 and Feb. 6 were found to be critical in the coming days.

“Since the BOL plebiscite was already concluded, we decided to have stay-behind force in areas which we think are critical in order to prevent post-election violence,” Albayalde said.

Although the BOL plebiscite was declared peaceful, he said there were pockets of atrocities reported a day before and during the plebiscite days.

He also reminded the PNP personnel to ‘remain apolitical’ to ensure clean and honest elections.

The campaign period for local candidates, such as governors, mayors, and district congressmen, begins March 29.  Christopher Lloyd Caliwan / PNA –