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19 areas listed as election hotspots

The Philippine National Police has listed 19 towns and cities in Luzon and Mindanao in its election watch list areas for the midterm polls in May.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said history of violent elections in the past, as well as presence of armed groups and other threat groups such as communist rebels, is the reason they were included in the hotspot list.

He identified them as Sudipen and Balaoan in La Union; Jones in Isabela; Lemery in Batangas; Roxas in Oriental Mindoro; Balud and Dimasalang in Masbate; Daraga in Albay; Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur; Cagayan de Oro City; Hadjih Mohammad Ajul, Lantawan, and Tipi-Tipo in Basilan; Marawi City; and Sultan Dumalondong, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, and Datu Unsay in Maguindanao.

The PNP initially listed 18 cities and towns but Daraga was included after Mayor Carlwyn Baldo was accused of ordering the killing of Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe who was supposed to run for mayor of the first-class municipality.

“We also included intense rivalry and presence of big threat groups as the reasons for the inclusion in the list,” said Albayalde.

Special case for security preparations, according to Albayalde, is Cotabato City and nearby areas following the New Year’s Eve bombing in which three persons were killed.

Albayalde said they have deployed a battalion of police commandos in Cotabato City for the conduct of the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite next week which is said to be the reason behind the bomb attack.

“In some areas we will see. We just have to consolidate our troops or re-deploy our personnel particularly coming from the police regional mobile groups,” said Albayalde.

The PNP has started positioning its troops across the country, starting Sunday when the 150-day election
period began. Albayalde said the police deployment will be reinforced by the military, especially in areas were big threat groups such as the communist rebels operate. (Aaron Recuenco)