The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is considering some island towns in Palawan as areas of concern due to their logistical requirements during the conduct of the plebiscite set on March 13.
According to COMELEC deputy executive director for operations Teopisto Elnas Jr., island towns particularly in the Calamian area and in the northeastern side of the province are considered as priority areas due to their geographical location where plebiscite paraphernalia will be directly transported and delivered to the Municipal Treasure’s Offices (MTOs) from Manila.
“All ballots will be dispatched from Manila to Provincial Treasurer’s Office to different municipalities. However, the municipalities of Busuanga, Linapacan, Culion, Cuyo, Agutaya and Magsaysay are considered as priority areas wherein from Manila, it will be directly dispatched to these municipalities considering the geographical location of the same,” Elnas said.
“The forms supplies and official ballots as well as accountable forms will no longer be dispatch through the Provincial Treasure’s Office but instead it will be dispatched directly to the different Municipal Treasurer’s Offices of those municipalities,” he added.
Aside from the municipalities mentiones, all paraphernalia will be delivered to the Provincial Treasure’s Office who will in turn deliver them to the different municipalities.
On February 11, law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started to set up the COMELEC checkpoints in different areas of Palawan in connection with the start of the plebiscite period last February 11.
Aside from this, Elnas said that other security preparations for the plebiscite include the reactivation of the Committee on Gun Ban, Joint Security Coordinating Committee, series of command conferences from national level to municipal level to ensure that security will be in place before the plebiscite day.
“Gun ban will be implemented except (in) Puerto Princesa City. Setting up of COMELEC checkpoints as a part of implementation of the gun ban,” he said.
Law enforcement agencies will be also dispatched in polling places, canvassing and other areas. COMELEC will also deploy its own monitoring teams.
“Three teams of COMELEC during the plebiscite will monitor the conduct of plebiscite, assess and evaluate the implementation of COVID-19 protocols as well as to assist the election officers and supervisors,” Elnas said.
According to Palawan Police Provincial Office (PPPO) spokesperson P/Lt. Col. June Rian, they will implement tighter security measures in four municipalities – Narra, Taytay, Culion, and Coron – during the plebiscite day.
Taytay Municipal Police Station (MPS) chief P/Lt. Regie Eslava said the move could possibly be due to the sightings of terrorist groups in northern Palawan.
“Tingin ko kasi d’yan because of communist terrorist groups (CTGs), may mga sightings kasi ng CTGs dito sa norte, kasama na ang Taytay. Isa pa rin dito ‘yung pagiging vocal ng simbahang katoliko sa pagiging agaisnt nila sa plebisito,” Eslava said.
In Culion, authorities said they have also monitored the presence of leftist groups that they suspect may cause trouble during the plebiscite day due to the recent incident of destruction of the “No to Division” campaign materials installed by the Catholic Church.
“[Sa] Culion, visible ang resistance. Dito sa amin sa Coron walang nakikitang resistance. in admission mayroon nga kami ditong mga progressive group, suspectedly left-leaning group, na isa sa tinitingnan namin na baka manggulo during the conduct of Plebiscite,” Coron MPS chief P/Cpt. Ervin Plando said.
“Kung matatandaan natin, may mga na-recover tayong mga firearms na indikasyon na may mga makakaliwang grupo,” he added.
In Narra, MPS chief P/Cpt. Dhenise Acosta also said Friday, they will also ensure the security of the town following the intensive campaign of pro and opposition groups.
“May movement dito both sides, the One Palawan movement and 3n1 Palawan. May time na kapag nag-campaign ang 3n1 Palawan, sasabayan ng kabila (one Palawan movement), Nagwo-worry lang kami, kasi, baka ang supporters ng both sides ay baka magkainitan,” Acosta said.
“Sa ngayon, wala pa kaming ganyang balita, pero mahigpit naming mino-monitor yan, kaya nagp-provide kami ng police visibility o police presence para ma-prevent natin ang kaguluhan hanggang matapos ang Plebisito,” he added.