Deployment of additional police personnel and an increase in the number of checkpoints can be expected in the nine municipalities in Palawan that are in the “election watchlist areas” (EWAS) of the regional Philippine National Police (PNP).
Police Superintendent Socrates Faltado, information officer of the MIMAROPA regional police, said this Wednesday as he confirmed the recent inclusion of nine towns in the province in their EWAS for the 2019 midterm elections.
“The inclusion of the nine municipalities in the election watchlist areas is sort of part of our monitoring mechanism of Palawan here in the regional office. We’re not yet allowed to disclose the information about what these municipalities are in your area because we do not want to cause undue alarm. We do not want to raise concern as we do not want to compromise security. But you can expect police efforts to pour [in these towns],” Faltado told Palawan News.
He said areas or municipalities can be EWAS if they fall under three categories: the minimum need for concern, areas where there are threats from rebel and terrorist groups, and a mix of both.
Minimum need for concern, he explained, means the area or municipality has recorded incidents of “political rivalry in the past presumed to be still happening with private armed groups (PAGS)” while areas with threats are about the presence of rebel and terrorist groups like the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and others.
“Your area is near Mindanao, therefore, close to where these terrorist groups are situated. We want to keep the safety of the election away from that,” Faltado said.
Under COMELEC Resolution No. 10481, an area can be placed under PNP and COMELEC control due to the history of political violence between rival groups; previously placed under COMELEC control; the presence of PAGs; use of loose firearms of individuals not qualified to handle them, and serious threat from rebel and terrorist groups or “rogue elements”.
On Tuesday, the Palawan Provincial Board (PB) approved a resolution requesting the Provincial Police Office (PPO) to evaluate Bataraza and make recommendations for its placement under the control of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
Board Member Marivic Roxas, herself a candidate for mayor in Bataraza, authored the resolution.
She explained her measure just stressed southern Palawan, particularly her town which has been an area of concern due to political rivalries in the past two election periods.
“Binigyan lang natin ng diin ‘yong southern Palawan, especially ‘yong Bataraza. Alam naman po natin ‘yong mga nakaraang election, particularly ‘yong 2013 and 2016 elections, merong hindi magandang nangyari sa bayan ng Bataraza,” Roxas said.
(We just gave southern Palawan the emphasis, especially Bataraza. We all know that in the past elections, particularly 2013 and 2016 elections, bad things happened in the municipality of Bataraza.)
In May 2013, Bataraza was declared as an election “hotspot” area after two people were killed in a shootout between supporters of the political camps of incumbent Mayor Abraham Ibba and opponent Mulsinin Abdujarik.
Abdurajik was then an opponent of Ibba’s wife Katrina in the mayoralty race in Bataraza.
She said her resolution appeals to PPO director Senior Superintendent Dionisio Bartolome Jr. to consider the decision of the PB so there will be safe, honest, and fair election in Bataraza.
In Aborlan town, Ruben Bediores Goh, a candidate for councilor, was gunned down on January 21 on his way home by still unidentified assailants allegedly due to “politics”.
But Bartolome and the provincial COMELEC had ruled out the possibility that it was “election-related violence” on Monday in a media conference.
Faltado said the nature of the two situations are different and “new” from the info that they have to place the nine Palawan municipalities under their EWAS.
“Your guess is as good as mine as to what some of these municipalities are. But again, we urge the public to be vigilant this coming election for a peaceful, honest, safe, and orderly election. If you see anyone with unusual activities, report immediately to the police to avoid untoward incidents,” he said.