Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday more government troops would be deployed in 40 to 50 areas nationwide as the campaign for local elections is scheduled to begin today, with 18,023 local elective seats at stake.
Of this number, there are 845 positions where candidates are running unopposed.
Año said: “As far as we know, there are more or less 40 to 50 areas. We will deploy additional uniformed troops there. These are different places spread around the country… in Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon.”
He said the DILG would also monitor the compliance of the local campaigns to minimum public health standards or protocols against the spread of COVID-19.
Last month, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said seven cities and 39 towns in the country might be under threat due to the national and local elections.
At the same time, the Commission on Elections reminded local candidates of certain restrictions on campaign activities despite the country’s improved coronavirus situation.
Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said physical contact such as hugging, kissing and handshake, among others, were still prohibited.
“Always think about the health protocol. We have reached Alert Level 1, the situation is very good, everyone is moving around, we are able to campaign well. Please make sure your campaign team, campaign staff are all wearing face masks. What has saved our world today is face masks. At the same time, even if you say that many people attend your rallies, make sure that there is social distancing,” Garcia added.
Health experts have warned of an increase in cases due to increased mobility and relaxing of quarantine protocols during the election campaign season.
Garcia, meanwhile, said they would also start taking down illegal campaign posters of local candidates starting Friday.
“Let us respect private ownership. I hope our candidates will give lectures to their supporters. As long as the owner of the house is not willing, even if the Supreme Court has a TRO (temporary restraining order), do not violate property rights; it’s unfair to the homeowner,” he said.
The 45-day campaign period for local candidates will run until May 7.
The Philippine National Police, for its part, said it is ready to enforce a stricter “security” package as local campaign activities are expected to be more intense than national sorties.
“There will be some adjustments in terms of the security package that is being provided by the PNP as we are expecting a more intense and heated fight at the local level,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said.
The PNP has earlier identified various hotspots, particularly in Mindanao which would be part of their areas of concern for the May 9 elections.
PNP chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos said some of these areas have a known presence of private armed groups.
Carlos said they would also monitor the situation in the Samar provinces to make sure that communist rebels in these areas would not cause any trouble.