PNP, AFP to stay neutral


Its focus fixed on the more than 700 election hotspots, the Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday vowed to maintain an apolitical stance as it assures a peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections in May.

The campaign period for the midterm polls started yesterday without a serious concern on security as both the administration and the opposition candidates for the available national positions adhered to their vows to keep their crusades clean.

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said the 175,000-strong police organization has already laid out an eight-point side-plan in performing its election mandate.

“We will ensure to remain apolitical and to protect the will of the electorate by ensuring honest, orderly and peaceful elections in May,” Albayalde said.

No less than President Duterte called on the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to keep their neutrality in the 13 May 2019 national elections.

Albayalde said the eight-point PNP side-plan will be the strict implementation of the nationwide gun ban, intensified focus on law enforcement operations, dismantling of private armed groups, early preparation of security and contingency plans, provision of security to vulnerable candidates, limited reshuffling of PNP personnel, accounting of loose firearms and the neutralization of gun-for-hire and criminal gangs.

“The PNP is seriously considering some adjustments in our projected deployment of police units and personnel for election duties,” Albayalde added, citing close coordination with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).


Hotspots identified
The move was prompted by the latest validated information of election watch-list areas that identified a total of 701 election hotspots comprising 42.9 percent of the 1,634 cities and municipalities across the country.

These 701 hotspots are categorized and color-coded according to a set of parameters: 223 election areas of concern (yellow), 382 election areas of immediate concern (orange) and 94 election areas of grave concern (red).

Areas under the yellow category are those with a history of election-related incidents in the last two elections; history of intense political rivalry, and areas that had been previously declared under Comelec control.

We will ensure to remain apolitical and to protect the will of the electorate by ensuring honest, orderly and peaceful elections in May.

Areas under the orange category include areas with serious armed threats posed by the New People’s Army (NPA), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf Group and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front and/or Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other analogous groups.

Areas under the red category exhibit the combined factors under the yellow and orange categories, such that it may warrant the motu proprio declaration of Comelec control.

Twenty-seven red areas were identified in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 19 in the Bicol region, seven each in CALABARZON and Western Mindanao, six each in MIMAROPA and Western Visayas, five in Northern Mindanao, four each in SOCSKSARGEN and Cordillera, three in Eastern Visayas, two each in Central Luzon and the Davao region and one each in CARAGA and Cagayan Valley region. There are no red areas in NCR and the Ilocos region.

Meanwhile, the AFP yesterday revealed the NPA is raking in hundreds of millions of pesos in issuing “permits to campaign and permits to win” in various communist-influenced areas in the country during the campaign season.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, said the NPA is taking advantage of the election period by intensifying its extortion activities — preying on politicians who are willing to pay “staggering amounts” of money for access to their areas.

“It could run up to hundreds of millions of pesos,” he said.

Citing a previous rate, Detoyato said the rebels charged each gubernatorial candidate at least P500,000 for access to be able to campaign in red-influenced communities.

“The politicians who will be contacted (by these communist terrorists) should cooperate with us,” he said.

“We will run after the NPA rebels extorting money from candidates,” Detoyato added.

“This extortion has long been practiced by the NPA and that has long been tolerated by candidates and local politicians. But this time if we find proof of them paying or giving in to the extortion demands, we will report them to the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and sanctions will be meted (against) them,” he warned.

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