By Leslie Ann Aquino
The Commission on Elections on Thursday has assured the public that the declaration of the entire Mindanao under Category Red election hotspot in the forthcoming May 13 midterm polls will not lead to partisanship.
“With regard to the apprehension that this declaration might lead to partisanship by the COMELEC, the election management body reassures the public that this will not happen,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said in a statement.
“The results reporting procedures of the automated election system are fully transparent and protected by multiple redundancies which, by and large, have been proven successful in preventing cheating in the last three automated elections – 2010, 2013, and 2016. There is no reason to fear that it will be otherwise in 2019,” he added.
Earlier, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate questioned the decision of the poll body even expressing concern that the declaration may be part of an orchestrated effort “to defeat progressive candidates and the opposition”.
But Jimenez explained that by placing all of Mindanao under Category Red the COMELEC simply seeks to ensure utmost responsiveness to whatever need may arise.
“While it cannot be gain said that there are areas within Mindanao that are relatively peaceful, the inescapable reality is that election related violent incidents respect no municipal borders; and that the activities of armed groups and terror organizations are not always clearly demarcated,” he said.
Jimenez added that the decision was a result of consultation with local poll officials, as well as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
On Tuesday, the poll body declared the entire Mindanao under “Category Red Election Hotspot” in the wake of suspected election-related incidents in the last two elections, the serious armed threats posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other analogous groups.
Also placed under “Category Red Election Hotspot” are the entire province of Abra as well as Jones, Isabela; and Lope de Vega, Northern Samar.
According to Jimenez, a Category Red classification may warrant the motu proprio declaration of COMELEC Control over the affected area.
The COMELEC En Banc may also direct the augmentation of personnel of the PNP and AFP as the need arises in the mentioned areas.
To note, the COMELEC, the PNP and the AFP, identify and classify election hotspots using a color coded system of classification.
Category Red, refer to areas where, while being under Category Orange, the relevant government agencies declare the existence of conditions which may constitute grounds for the declaration of COMELEC Control.