MANILADepartment of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) officer-in-charge Secretary Eduardo AAo has directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to intensify the conduct of regular checkpoints and other security measures in all election "hotspots" nationwide.
The directive was issued barely three weeks before the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
As the elections are drawing near, we expect that the political tension in the barangays will increase, especially among the candidates and their supporters. I therefore call on the PNP to conduct regular checkpoints and maintain police visibility as part of the measures to prevent election violence during the election period, AAo said in a statement Wednesday.
The responsibility of ensuring a safe and peaceful environment where citizens will be able to exercise their right to vote lies primarily on the shoulders of the police. Let us prove that democracy is still working in our country by ensuring a safe, secure and orderly barangay and SK elections, he added.
The DILG head issued the directive in support of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the performance of its duties and functions in the coming Barangay and SK elections on May 14.
Last Friday, President Rodrigo R. Durterte signed Memorandum Order 21 in line with Comelec Resolution 10207, which deputized the military and police to ensure the free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible conduct of the village polls. The Constitution requires the President, as the military and police commander-in-chief, to concur with Comelec in the use of military and the PNP during elections.
AAo said the PNP should focus and deploy more personnel to areas in the country which have a history of election-related violent incidents.
Earlier, the PNP has included 5,744 barangays nationwide on its elections watchlist of areas, excluding those from Metro Manila.
Of this number, 2,025 barangays belong to Category 1 where the rivalry among candidates is intense, there is a history of election-related violence, and private armed groups (PAGs) are present.
Meanwhile, 3,448 barangays are in Category 2, where there is intense rivalry among candidates, a history of election-related violence, and PAGs and armed threats are present.
In Category 3 are 271 barangays, where all critical factors exist, including the proliferation of loose firearms and the activities of criminal gangs.
According to the PNP, 182 barangays in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 48 in Bicol, and 37 in Soccsksargen belong to Category 3.
Soccsksargen consists of provinces of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani, plus General Santos City.
Source: Philippine News Agency