by Harley Palangchao
CAMP DANGWA, Benguet – Sixty-four areas in the Cordillera are in the watch list of the regional police in line with its bid to make the region peaceful during the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October.
Police Director Benjamin Magalong said the police and the Commission on Elections have noticed intense political rivalries in 36 of the 64 areas of concern.
The remaining areas are also closely monitored by the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines due to presence and sightings or armed groups like the New Peoples’ Army.
The mainstream NPA rebels carried out at least two ambuscades during the midterm elections. Lt. Col. Roger Salvador, then head of a military brigade in Abra, said sightings of NPA rebels were reported in the boundary of upper Kalinga and Abra.
Magalong said they will also give special focus to Kalinga, aside from Abra, to avoid a repeat of NPA ambush involving a military convoy escorting board of election inspectors.
“What’s good about the peace and order situation in Abra is it is improving, considering no major untoward election-related incidents happened during the recent elections,” he said.
He added there are only two private armed groups remaining in Abra, particularly in Lagayan and Lagangilang, and the Abra police are on top of the situation.
Ifugao remains generally peaceful even after three policemen, including a police officer, were killed in a rebels’ ambush in Asipulo last April.
With only 78 days left before the Oct. 28 synchronized manual elections, the Comelec central office said the gun ban exemption issued during the May 13 polls will still be honored for the upcoming local elections.
Under Comelec Resolution 9608, exempted from the gun ban were President Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, senators who are not seeking re-election, Cabinet secretaries, chief public attorney, chairs and commissioners of the Commission on Human Rights and Constitutional Commission, the Ombudsman, Deputy Ombudsman and investigators, prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Solicitor General.
But Comelec Resolution 9735 stated the approved permits in availing security personnel and bodyguards during the May 13 polls will not be extended for the October polls.
The gun ban and employment of security personnel for the synchronized barangay and SK elections will begin on Sept. 28.