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Davao City, Philippines

Comelec declares entire Mindanao an election hotspot

March 20, 2019 - Wednesday 11:03 PM by Ayan Mellejor

Soldiers escort a hearse during the funeral procession of a victim killed in the January 27 cathedral bombing in Jolo, Sulu province. The entire island of Mindanao has been declared an election hotspot by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). NICKEE BUTLANGAN / AFP

DAVAO CITY – The Commission on Election (Comelec) has declared the entire Mindanao under Category Red for the May 2019 midterm election.

According to the Comelec, places under Category Red have records of politically-motivated violent incidents that may occur during the election due to the intense political rivalry and have serious armed threats posed by organized threat groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), the Bangsamoro Independent Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other analogous groups.

The Comelec’s declaration to put the entire Mindanao Island and other areas -- Jones, Isabela; Lope de Vega, Northern Samar; and, the entire Province of Abra -- is based on Comelec Resolution No. 10510 promulgated on March 19 amending Resolution No. 10481, placing some areas under Comelec control and establishing Comelec command centers for purposes of the May 19 election.

The Comelec resolution also states that the Category Red classification may warrant the motu proprio declaration of Comelec control over the affected area and the Comelec en banc may direct the augmentation of Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the need arises.

The AFP and the Police Regional Office (PRO)-11 said the Comelec declaration should not cause alarm to the people.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel  Ezra Balagtey said in the first place, Mindanao is still under martial law and the security mechanism is already in place.

“People should even feel more secure. This is still in line with the declaration of martial law,” Balagtey said during Wednesday’s AFP-PNP press briefing at the Royal Mandaya Hotel.

He said while Eastmincom received the directive on the declaration of Mindanao as election hotspot on Tuesday night, it is still waiting for the guidelines.

PRO-11 spokesperson Police Major Jason Baria said placing Mindanao under Category Red could have been based on the overall assessment on the peace and order situation.

He said PRO-11 said has color coding for specific areas under the Election Watch List to guide police and to level up the position of the deployment of troops.

Baria said the security forces and the local Comelec officials are also closely coordinating through the Joint Security Committee where security during the election is concerned.

Baria said in the PRO-11 EWAS list, 823 barangays in Davao region are placed under Category Green, 233 under Category Yellow, 86 under Category Orange, and 13 under Category Red.