Comelec, PNP validating risk areas

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the PNP will start identifying so-called election hotspots in the region.

Atty. Dennis Ausan, Comelec director in Western Visayas, said the move is to prevent another poll-related incident similar to the Maguindanao massacre. As of yesterday, 52 persons were confirmed killed in the gruesome incident.

Ausan said the PNP is helping them validate the lists of possible election areas of concern in the region after these were submitted by provincial and city police offices in Western Visayas to the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said they will release the final list after they have studied and assessed the reports of their subordinate units.

The list of hotspots is normally made public during the start of the campaign season but the Comelec and the PNP might publicized it early after what happened in Maguindanao.

The election period officially starts January 10, 2010.

Election hotspots are identified in two categories: Category 1 pertains to areas where the possibility of election-related violent incidents (ERVI) is high; Category 2 areas have a history of ERVIs, intense political rivalries and high probability of occurrence of ERVIs with participation of private armed groups and rebel groups.

ERVIs are incidents which could affect or disrupt the electoral proceedings in the area or create a form of political tension that could eventually upset the electoral process, not only in the site of the incident but also in the surrounding areas during election days.

Aside from drawing up the election areas of concern, the PRO-6 is also keeping tabs of politicians who hire private armies and horde illegal firearms.

Cuevas also advised journalists who will cover areas with intense political rivalries to coordinate with the PNP so they can be provided protection.

“The police will be ready to provide them with security personnel if our media practitioners make the request,” Cuevas said.

At least 18 journalists were confirmed killed in the massacre allegedly perpetrated by the Ampatuan clan against members of the Mangudadatu family.

The journalists were supposed to cover the filing of the certificate of candidacy of Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu of Buluan, Maguindanao who will run for governor versus Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

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