The police have identified 105 towns and 15 cities as election hotspots under the highest red category, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Thursday.
“We already have the list of the election areas of concern or what we call the hotspots. Particularly, the red-tagged areas. I think we have about 15 cities and municipalities,” Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said at a press conference Thursday.
Police Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Divina, head of the task force for the 2022 elections, said more focused deployment and operations will be enforced in these areas.
Divina said the police would leave it up to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to release the list of hotspots.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said they were still validating the list submitted to them by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and said the list could be released this week.
The PNP classifies areas into four color-coded categories for the 2022 elections: green, yellow, orange, and red.
Areas classified as green are considered generally peaceful for the conduct of elections.
Yellow areas have reported suspected election-related incidents in the past two elections, possible presence of armed groups, and intense political rivalries. Yellow areas are considered “areas of concern.”
Orange areas have a recorded presence of armed groups such as the New People’s Army that may interrupt the polls. These are considered “areas of immediate concern.”
Red areas meet the parameters for yellow and orange areas and will be placed under Comelec control. Security forces will focus on monitoring these areas with a possibility for violence among local candidates.
Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan, meanwhile, said the poll body’s employees can expect to receive a one-month bonus this month.
The poll body also approved more expenses for its workers and suspended the biometrics or automated attendance system so that employees can continue working in the field without the need to return to the office to punch in their attendance.
Pangarungan said an exemption from the gun ban for election officers, provincial election supervisors and regional election directors has been approved “in principle.”
Election officers, he added, may also be entitled to not more than two security details subject to the approval of their respective regional election directors.
“This exemption to the gun ban was enjoyed before by our election officers in previous elections. To be effective, our election officers need to feel secure in performing their duties, free from fear, and pressure from opposing candidates in their respective jurisdictions,” Pangarungan said.
Also on Thursday, the poll body said it plans to set up isolation polling areas for voters with COVID-19 symptoms during Election Day.
Comelec Commissioner Aimee Neri said this is to “provide additional support in revisiting COVID-19 related guidelines and develop timely and more responsive policies.”
Neri said the Comelec is expecting about 67.5 million people—or 60 percent of the country’s 112-million population—to cast their votes on May 9.