BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Commission on Elections yesterday named 12 towns and cities in Negros Occidental as “areas of concern” in line with the May 9 elections, due to intense political rivalries, history of election-related incidents, presence of private armed groups, New People’s Army and other threat groups.
Provincial Comelec supervisor Roberto Salazar however said that there might be some changes in the list, as the Commission on Elections has yet to issue a resolution on that matter.
There are three categories in the identification of election watch list areas, such as areas of concern, areas of immediate concern and areas of grave concern.
A town or city may fall under the category of areas of concern if it has a history of election-related incident and occurrence of intense political rivalries; areas of immediate concern if there are presence of NPA rebels, or private armed groups; and a combination of both for areas of grave concern, according to Salazar.
Identified by the Comelec as an area of concern was Don Salvador Benedicto, while local government units included in the areas of immediate concern were Manapla, Silay City, Victorias City, Toboso, Binalbagan, Himamaylan City, Hinobaan and Kabankalan City.
The municipalities of Moises Padilla and Candoni, as well as Escalante City, were placed under the category of areas under grave concern, Salazar further said.
In 2019 elections, Moises Padilla was placed under Comelec control due to intense political rivalries, occurrence of election-related incidents, which reportedly involved partisan armed groups and New People’s Army rebels.
Last month, a political organizer of Mayor Ernesto Estrao in Hinobaan was murdered.
Salazar said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is intensifying internal security operations in areas classified as areas of concerns to contain threats from any lawless groups.*