Nineteen cities and towns have been identified by the Philippine National Police as hot spots in the May midterm elections
—just a few days before the start next week of the election period while security authorities begin deploying troops to ensure a peaceful political exercise.
The 19 have been categorized as each having a tense political atmosphere arising from rivalries among aspirants and existing private armed groups and other threat groups.
These are two cities and nine towns in Mindanao and eight towns in Luzon.
PNP Spokesman, Chief Supt Benigno Durana, citing data from the Directorate for Operations enumerated the 19 hot spots as Sudipen and Balwan towns in La Union; Jones in Isabela; Lemery in Batangas; Roxas in Oriental Mindoro; Balud and Dimasalang towns in Masbate and Daraga in Albay.
The other hot spots were Pagadian City and Cagayan de Oro City in Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Oriental, respectively; the towns of Hadji Mohammad Ajul, Lantawan and Tipi-Tipo in Basilan.
They also include the town of Sultan Dumalondong, Basilan; and five towns in Maguindanao—Masasapano, Shariff Aguak, Shariff Saydona, Mustapha and Datu Unsay.
The latest hot spot area to be included in the list is Daraga, Albay, following the death of Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and his escort SP01 Orlando Diaz
on Dec. 22.
Incumbent Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo has been linked by a self-confessed gunman of Batocabe to have masterminded the murder
Durana said the decision putting the town of Daraga as hot spot came two days following the recently-concluded conference between officials of the Commission on Elections, Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Crame.
“Daraga town was considered as hot spot due to the intense political rivalries among aspirants in the coming midterm elections,” Durana said.
Officials have yet to determine whether to include Cotabato City as hot spot area considering the tense security atmosphere relating to the forthcoming Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite this month.
Dozens of elected local officials have been killed—blamed on the involvement of illegal drugs or intense political contention since 2016 till 2018, the latest victim being Batocabe.
Among those killed were mayors Alexander Buquing of Sudipen, La Union; Mariano Banco of Ronda, Cebu; Ferdinan Bote of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija; Antonio Halili, Tanauan, Batangas; Ronald Lowell Tirol, Buenavista, Bohol, whose death was in 2018.
Several vice mayors also killed in 2018 were: Alex Lubigan, Trece Martirez, Cavite; Al Rashid Mohammad Ali, Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi; and Jonah John Ungab, Ronda, Cebu.
Due to the prevailing tense political atmosphere in the 19 hot spot areas, PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said considerable police forces would be deployed not only to defuse tension but more importantly preserve peace and tranquility before, during and after the conduct of elections.
Thousands of military and police personnel have been dispatched critical areas in Luzon and Mindanao to prevent any serious incidents in the runup to the elections.