MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has identified 15 priority provinces in need of a bigger security detail by the elections, noting such areas have shown incidents of intense political rivalries, and the presence of private armed groups and criminal groups.
Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II described the areas as “hotspots” but assured the public that the government will be detailing around 30,000 police personnel in the last two weeks before Election Day.
PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. said the 15 are: Abra in CAR; Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and La Union in Region 1; Cagayan in Region 2; Pampanga and Nueca Ecija in Region 3; Batangas and Cavite in Region 4A; Masbate in Region 5; Samar in Region 8; Misamis Occidental in Region 10; and Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan in the ARMM.
Cerbo said private armed groups continue to be monitored specifically in these 15 areas, but noted the decline in numbers since the 2010 presidential elections.
He said the police are monitoring 48 private armed groups, compared to the 112 back in May 2010.
He said the 57% reduction is anchored on the creation of regional operations task groups tasked to rein in these groups.
He cited that in Abra, there are five groups being monitored compared to 11 in 2010. In the ARMM where the infamous Maguindanao massacre happened, private armed groups are down to 10 from 20.
He said around 206 members of these groups have been “neutralized,” meaning arrested or have surrendered. Around 359 firearms were also recovered from them.
In citing the 15 areas, Cerbo also noted the “intense” political rivalries there.
Mayoralty positions garnered the most cases of political rivalries, numbering 137. Gubernatorial posts recorded 17; vice mayoralty posts recorded seven. Interestingly, 18 cases were recorded for congressional posts.
Cerbo also noted the presence of criminal groups in the areas being monitored, numbering 65 and with a membership of 725. He said the police are continuously seeking search warrants against the criminal elements.
He said the police are still pursuing “Oplan Katok”, a campaign that confiscates unrenewed and illegal firearms house-to-house.
Cerbo said criminal elements can be used by some politicians to create havoc during the elections.
A total of 17 election-related violence cases have been validated so far in these 15 areas. He said this is a drop from the 33 back in 2010.
Nationwide, 49 election-related violence cases were recorded compared to 73 in 2010.
Roxas noted that the next two weeks will be crucial in securing the country against crimes. To supplement the 30,000 additional personnel, he said those in the training and administrative work will be pulled out to do field work.
He also noted that members of the police have been ordered to cancel their leaves for the remainder of the election period.
He also said they are now discussing plans with telecommunication and power firms to ensure that the elections will run smoothly. (MNS)