By Martin Sadongdong
More intense security preparations will be implemented in the entire Mindanao Island and other provinces in Luzon and Visayas which are considered as “Category Red” hotspots by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the May polls draw to a near.
The entire Mindanao island group was declared as a Category Red hotspot by the Comelec on Tuesday, joining three other areas in the said category namely Jones, Isabela; Lope de Vega, Northern Samar; and the entire province of Abra.
In response, Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said the police organization acknowledges the decision of the Comelec.
As such, he said the PNP will implement necessary adjustments to secure the areas under the Category Red hotspot.
“The PNP will abide by the declaration of the Comelec on election hotspots and make the necessary adjustments in our intensified security preparations,” Banac said.
“We shall continue to perform our mandate to enforce the law and ensure peace and order in the run up to the May 13 polls,” he added.
According to the Comelec, the decision to place the entire Mindanao under the Category Red hotspot developed “in the wake of suspected election-related incidents in the last two elections.”
Furthermore, the “serious armed threats” posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other analogous groups also added to the factors considered by the poll governing body to consider Mindanao as a Category Red hotspot.
The Comelec, PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) identify and classify election hotspots into four categories: Green, Yellow, Orange and Red.
Category Green refers to areas of no security threat and are relatively peaceful and orderly.
Meanwhile, Category Yellow are areas with a history of election-related violence or existence of intense partisan political rivalry.
Category Orange includes areas where aside from having the factors considered in the Category Yellow, there are also serious threats posed by domestic terror groups and the likes.
Lastly, Category Red is comprised of areas where aside from the factors considered in Category Orange, relevant government agencies declare the existence of conditions which may constitute grounds for the declaration of Comelec control.
The PNP earlier said that it will deploy 181,775 police personnel for public safety and general law enforcement duties on election day.
Of the number, 99,976 will be assigned in polling centers; 54,532 will be assigned to Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs); 18,177 will compose the Reactionary Standby Support Force (RSSF); and 9,089 will make up the Red Team and Headquarters Skeletal Forces.