The Philippine National Police (PNP) has identified more than 300 possible “areas of concern” during the May 9 national elections, an official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Monday.
At the Laging Handa public briefing, DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said that “election hotspots” were now called “areas of concern.”
Densing said the declaration of the areas of concern by the Commission on Elections had been delayed as the poll body is still thoroughly verifying the condition in these places.
Last week, Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said the areas of concern would be announced on March 31.
The PNP classified the areas in the country into four color-coded categories: green, yellow, orange, and red.
Areas classified as green are considered generally peaceful for the conduct of elections, according to the PNP.
Yellow areas have reported suspected election-related incidents in the past two polls, possible presence of armed groups, and intense political rivalries. Yellow areas are considered “areas of concern.”
Orange areas have a recorded presence of armed groups such as the New People’s Army that may interrupt the polls. These are considered “areas of immediate concern.”
Meanwhile, red areas meet the parameters for yellow and orange areas. They will be placed under Comelec control. Security forces will focus on monitoring these areas with a possibility for violence and intense political fights among local candidates.
Of these “areas of concern” the PNP recommended that around 100 municipalities and 14 cities be placed under the red category.
“In the last meeting, the red areas all over the country were 100 municipalities and 14 cities. Now we will look at the update we have color-coded, we have green, we will not have a problem with green areas. We continue monitoring the yellow and orange, but we focus on the red colored areas,” PNP Chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos said in a press conference in Camp Crame.
The Comelec is also looking to allow its chief Saidamen Pangarungan to classify areas under “Comelec control” to fast-track its preparations just over a month before the May 9 polls.
Commissioner George Erwin Garcia, in a Laging Handa briefing Monday, said the matter would be tackled by the Comelec en banc.
He added that if Pangarungan would be given the authority to decide on the matter, it would hasten the process by doing away with the prerequisite of a Comelec en banc resolution.
Currently, only the poll body en banc has the authority to place certain areas in the country under Comelec control.
In related developments, the Comelec said overseas absentee voting would begin on April 10 and reminded Filipinos abroad to participate in the overseas absentee voting.
“I am calling on especially our compatriots abroad. There are 1.6 million—1,697,090—who will participate in overseas voting, please don’t ignore it. This is your chance to elect the leaders. It’s for our future. We understand that you may be busy with your jobs, or your
employers will not allow it, but we hope you will allot some of your precious time to vote in the 2022 elections,” Garcia said.
In other related developments, a congressional leader asked the Comelec, the Department of Energy, and several government agencies to
take the needed steps to ensure that the May 9 elections would be free from brownouts.
“The risk of unstable power supplies to our schools should be treated with great concern, especially as brownouts during election day have
been historically viewed as badges of electoral fraud,” Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said.
Carlos said he had ordered each unit commander to focus on the areas that would be placed under the red category to suppress any election-related violence.
The PNP chief, however, did not disclose what areas are under the election hotspot list which has four categories—green, yellow, orange, and red.
Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said close to 2,000 cops were relieved or reshuffled as their relatives are running in the coming elections.
Fajardo said 1,971 PNP members had relatives seeking various elective posts. She said this was part of their moves to ensure that policemen will be “non-partisan” during the elections.
A total 147 field commanders were also reshuffled.
Carlos said the PNP would hold a command conference as part of their preparations for the 2022 elections.
“The PNP is continuously coordinating with the Comelec, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Philippine Coast Guard to further validate
information on some 300 localities recommended to be categorized as Election Areas of Concern.”
“For the deputized agencies PNP, AFP, and PCG, this classification will further guide our respective agencies to make the necessary adjustments on the appropriate deployment of forces and other operational requirements,” Carlos said.
The PNP chief also reminded all candidates that no campaigning would be allowed on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, according to the calendar of activities released by the poll body.
He said the police would strictly monitor all activities on those days and any observed violation will be documented and duly reported to the poll body.
With the Comelec’s completion of the printing of over 67.4 million ballots ahead of its April 25 target, Carlos said the PNP is also making early preparations to provide security for the transport of ballots and other election paraphernalia and equipment to the designated Comelec hubs in the different regions and provinces in coordination with the AFP and PCG.
The official ballots and the election returns shall be distributed by the Comelec to each city and municipality at the rate of one and one-fifth ballots for every voter registered in each polling place and for election returns, at the rate of one set each for every polling place.
“If we wait for the weekly Comelec en banc meeting, there may be delays in the necessary actions to prevent violence or the heightening of tension in the concerned area,” Garcia said.
Under Comelec Resolution No. 10757, any political division, subdivision, unit, or area may be placed under Comelec Control when the peace and order situation in the area may affect the conduct of elections.
For areas to be declared under Comelec control, it must have a history of or current intense rivalry among the contending parties; areas that have been previously declared under Comelec control, or incidence of politically-motivated violence involving aspirants/candidates and/or their supporters.
Other factors that may prompt the placing of an area under Comelec control include the presence of violence that may be facilitated by the employment of private armed groups; and the presence of serious armed threats posed by the communist terrorist group and/or other threat groups including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Maute Group, and other analogous threat groups.
The declaration of Comelec Control can be initiated via motu Proprio; by the filing of request; or by the filing of direct petition/letter.
Overseas absentee voters will only be voting for national positions such as presidential, vice-presidential, senators, and party-list
Nearly one-half of the 1.6 million voters are in the Middle East.
The period of voting will be from April 10 until May 9 while the counting of the votes will be held simultaneously with the counting of votes in the Philippines on Election Day.
There are two modes of voting for OAVs personal and postal. For personal voting, the voter has to go to the consulate or embassy in
the country or territory they are in to cast his/her vote.
For postal voting, the registered voter will receive the ballot through mail. After voting, he/she has to mail it back to the sender, which is the consulate or embassy.
At the same time, Comelec said it was also ready for the start of local absentee voting, which is for persons deprived of liberty, members of the media, and uniformed personnel who will be working on election day, May 9.
Local absentee voting is scheduled on April 27, 28, and 29.
Vargas called for a multi-sectoral assessment of the expected power situation in May to include government agencies and the private
The assessment, he said, “should identify the extent of the issue and, thereafter, urgently craft risk mitigation strategies, including, among others, budgetary support to public schools for electrical infrastructure enhancement.”
In a resolution, Vargas expressed concern that despite the importance of a stable power supply on election day, the Department of Energy raised the possibility of rotational brownouts and power interruptions due to “extremely strained power reserves,” especially in Luzon.
The DOE’s projections are also backed by an independent study that forecasted tight power supply for the second quarter of the year and raised the possibility of rotating power outages across the Luzon grid.
“The security and integrity of the 2022 Elections are intrinsically tied to the integrity of electronic voting counting machines and other
electronic devices, and the unimpeded operation and administration of the elections in the polling centers require a stable and dependable power source,” Vargas said.
The Quezon City lawmaker said there was also a need to review and upgrade the electrical infrastructure of schools to be used as polling areas for May 9 to ensure stable power supply.
He said consultations with education stakeholders have revealed that some schools “face electrical infrastructure constraints, and some school buildings are not even fully connected to electricity.”
This has been supported by a study from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, which cited the Philippines as among countries in
the ASEAN region “that have yet to achieve universal access of schools to electricity.”
While the Comelec and DepEd are implementing measures to address election-day related concerns, Vargas said a multi-stakeholder approach is necessary to “determine the full extent of electric infrastructure constraints of our public schools and polling places and the same approach is critical in addressing these problems promptly and effectively.”