Police identify over 700 election hotspots

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — The election fever heats up, and so does the possible escalation of related violence, said the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Dir. Gen. Oscar Albayalde PNP chief, said on Tuesday 701 areas have been identified as election hotspots or areas of concern ahead of the May elections. He noted a spike in the number of "areas of grave concern" from 19 to 94. 

An election hotspot can be classified as either an area of concern, an area of immediate concern or an area of grave concern. An area of concern means it has a history of political rivalry, violence in the past two elections, and a record of having been placed under Commission on Election (Comelec) control.  A hotspot is classified as an area of immediate concern if it is threatened by local terrorist groups. Meanwhile, areas of grave concern are towns or cities that possess all criteria. 

"Una may intense political rivalry doon mayroon nang history of election-related violence doon whether physical injury, killing and others, or there's threat of the National People's Army, and other threat groups. Ito 'yung naparami doon kaya naparami ang itong tinatawag natin election areas of grave concern," Albayalde explained.  

[Translation: First of all there's intense political rivalry there, history of election-related violence whether physical injury killing and others, or there's threat of the National people's Army and other threat groups. These increased in those places that's why the number of areas of grave concern rose.]

The PNP chief said they would have to adjust their deployment in a number of hotspots with this development. 

According to the PNP, there are 223 areas of concern, mostly in the Ilocos region with 40 cities. For areas of immediate concern, there are 382 municipalities or cities, mostly in the Bicol region covering 49 areas. 

There are two areas under Comelec control, namely Cotabato city and Daraga town in Albay. Under this set-up, Comelec has control over security forces and supervision over local officials doing poll duty.

As for peaceful areas, the PNP listed 933 cities and municipalities.

The country has a total of 1,634 cities and municipalities. 

Albayalde reiterated the PNP's duties in the election period which ends on June 12, two days before the midterm elections. He said the PNP will be continuing their gun ban, law enforcement operations, dismantling of private armed groups, contingency planning and security measures for vulnerable candidates. 

Candidates are allowed two armed security personnel subject to Comelec approval, he said.