PNP names 18 “areas of grave concern” amid 2019 elections

PNP chief Oscar Albayalde presents a diagram showing the photographs of the suspects in the killing of Ako-Bicol party-list representative Rodel Batocabe. photo by Roy Narra

The Philippine National Police (PNP) recently listed 18 towns and cities as “areas of grave concern” in the upcoming 2019 midterm elections.

The said municipalities and cities were concentrated in Luzon and Mindanao. No particular area in Visayas mainland was listed. There are seven places in the list for Luzon while 11 from Mindanao.

Among the said places in Luzon are Sudipen and Balawan, La Union in Ilocos Region; Jones, Isabela in Cagayan Valley; Lemery, Batangas in Calabarzon; Roxas, Oriental Mindoro in MIMAROPA; and Balud and Dimasalang, Masbate in Bicol. 

Areas in Mindanao include Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur; Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental; Hadji, Mohammad Ajul, Lantawan and Tipo Tipo in Basilan; Marawi City and Sultan Dumalondong in Lanao del Sur; Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustapha and Datu Unsay in Maguindanao.

The PNP classified the said places into three categories. Category 1 for places with intense political rivalries, Category 2 for places with “serious armed threats” by “organized threat groups” — including but not limited to — the New People’s Army (NPA), the Bangsamoro Independent Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) while Category 3 for places with violence involving electoral candidates.

In an article from Rappler, the said places all fall into Category 3 classification, however, the PNP claimed that some areas also have Category 1 and 2 conflicts. Incidents dating back to the filing of the certificate of candidacy up to the present were considered in coming up with the list.

The PNP said that all Category 3 areas can be possibly placed under the Commission on Elections (COMELEC)’s control. Thus, all national and local – officials, law enforcement agencies and military officers in the area will report to the election department.

As such, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte recommended that Daraga, Albay be placed under the poll body’s control, following the slaying of AKO Bicol Partylist Representative Rodel Batocabe who was vying for a mayoral position in the same town. 

The killing of Batocabe and his police escort Senior last December 22, 2018 sparked the allegations that the said shooting has something to do with politics. There are seven suspects facing double murder and multiple frustrated murder complaints as the search for the killer continues. 

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