June 20, 2024

Police and military in the region are closely monitoring three provinces in the Cordillera to thwart possible election-related atrocities in these localities.
While no massive atrocities were recorded in the region so far, the Police Regional Office-Cordillera said Abra, Apayao, and Kalinga are under tight watch because of the history of intense political rivalry and other election-related violence in these areas.
PRO-Cor Deputy Chief for Operations, Lt/Col. Marcelino Polig, said in Abra, a Regional Special Operations Task Group (RSOTG) was created to provide focused, strategic direction and supervision to all election-related police operations, all geared towards securing the public and ensuring the conduct of safe and fair elections in the province.
More than 200 personnel from the police and the Philippine Army compose the RSOTG deployed to the province.
Police in Abra recently had an encounter with the security escorts of a politician from Pilar town who were reported to have evaded a checkpoint.
Polig said the special operations task groups that will oversee the security in Kalinga and Apayao are composed of personnel led by their provincial police office heads.
The police said monitoring is done on the three provinces because of the political environment in these areas in the previous elections.
For instance, the seven towns in Kalinga that the police consider as areas of concern were listed under the “red” category of election hotspots in the previous political exercise.
PRO-Cor Chief of Regional Staff, Col. Elmer Ragay said these towns, which include Tabuk City, Balbalan, Lubuagan, Pasil, Pinukpuk, Rizal, and Tinglayan; were classified under the red category because of the monitored movement of the New People’s Army in these areas in the past.
In the 2019 polls, the Commission on Elections used colors in classifying election hotspots. Those under the category red were considered areas of grave concern due to serious threats posed by lawless elements, such as the NPA, which the government declared as a terrorist group.
At present, Lt/Col. Vladimir Gracilla of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division covering Ifugao, Mountain Province, and parts of Benguet said based on their evaluation, no areas have so far fell under the parameters set for a locality to be declared as an election hotspot in relation to the May 2022 elections.
Police and the military said while there are no reported election-related atrocities, they are not letting their guards down as armed groups, no matter how small their number is, can adversely affect the conduct of a safe, accurate, and fair elections. – Jane B. Cadalig