By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than 40 towns and cities in Western Visayas are considered probable political flashpoints as the May 2010 elections approach, according to the Police Regional Office (PRO-6).

Supt. Ranulfo Demiar, PRO-6 regional public information officer, said 48 areas in the region were listed as areas of election concern based on their data during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

Demiar said the PNP and the Philippine Army are still validating if some of the areas should be retained or scrapped from the election hotspot list.

Iloilo province has the most number of probable poll flashpoints with 16 towns, Negros Occidental – 10, Antique – 8, Aklan – 7, Capiz – 5 and Guimaras – 2.

A total of 25 probable hotspots are classified as Category 1 which means these areas where the possibility of election-related violent incidents (ERVI) is high.

Category 2 areas (areas with history of ERVIs, intense political rivalries and high probability of occurrence of ERVIs with participation of private armed groups and rebel groups) numbered 23.

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.

Areas with very serious ERVIs can be put under the control of the Commission on Elections which means that the local police and even military forces in the area will under the poll body’s direction.

Demiar said the PRO-6 will come up with an official list of election flashpoints after the PNP and the AFP have finished the validation process.

In the 2007 elections, the towns of Estancia and Igbaras were considered election hot spots because of intense political rivalry and the presence of armed rebels.