By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan
MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Thursday said the country’s security situation ahead of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) remains peaceful despite a rise in incidents of violence just a week before the polls.
In its latest data, the police force said the number of validated election-related incidents (ERIs) climbed to 23 as of Thursday, out of a total of 129 cases it has recorded nationwide.
Undergoing validation are 29 incidents while another 77 were classified as unrelated to the polls, it added.
“Hindi tayo nag kumpyansa, hindi natin pinagwawalang bahala kaya naman dun sa mga areas po na may naitatala tayong insidente ay mas pinalakas pa natin yung ating checkpoint operations at yung ating mga focused police and military operation to make sure po na hindi na madadagdagan itong mga kumpirmadong election related incidents (We will not be complacent. We are not ignoring these so we are strengthening our checkpoint operations and focused police and military operations to make sure that confirmed ERIs won’t increase),” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in a radio interview.
Fajardo, however, noted that the number of validated ERIs for this year’s BSKE is still lower than 40 validated ERIs recorded in the last village polls in 2018.
She said of the 22 confirmed ERIs, nine cases have been filed before prosecutor’s offices, one case has been filed in court while 12 are still undergoing investigation.
The latest incident involved gunning down of two poll bets and a supporter in Barangay Rosary Heights 12, Cotabato City on Monday.
Fajardo said close to 800 police officers have been deployed in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to augment security operations for the polls.
The number includes 300 police officers to be assigned in Cotabato City following Monday’s incident.
Under the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) watchlist classification, places under the red category are considered to be on the watchlist and need to be carefully monitored due to the presence of threats.
Green areas are those that are generally peaceful and orderly and have no cause for concern while yellow areas have a history of election-related incidents in the last polls and had been previously declared under the control of the Comelec.
Orange areas are those that have an immediate security concern due to a serious armed threat.
Since the start of the election period last Aug. 28, Fajardo said the PNP has conducted intensified checkpoint operations supervised by local Comelec officers where a total of 1,393 firearms were seized from 1,785 arrested gun ban violators as of Oct. 24.
The PNP has also accepted 1,590 surrendered firearms and another 2,269 firearms deposited for safekeeping.
The election period for the BSKE started on Aug. 28 and will end on Nov. 29. (PNA)