The government on Friday identified a total of 15 provinces where violence is likely to take place in next year's midterm elections.
On Friday, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas described the areas as high risk because of the number of election-related violence, private armies, running family feuds, rebel groups, and gangs and crime groups existing there.
"Itong 15 probinsyang ito ayon sa datos ng nakaraan na hawak ng DILG at PNP, dito yung pinaka high risk na magkaroon ng karahasan sa darating na halalan kaya ito ang pina-prioritize ng probinsya," Roxas said during a press briefing at Camp Crame.
He identified the 15 provinces as:
- Ilocos Sur
- La Union
- Nueva Ecija
- Misamis Occidental
- Lanao del Sur
"Usually generational ito [feuds], nagkapatayan na. Sobrang intense at bawat halalan ay pagkakataon para masariwa ang giyera sa pagitan ng mga ito. Yung crime groups and gangs, nagiging gun for hire sila. Nagpapa-tap sila sa pulitika na ganid at kapit tuko sa pwesto kaya karahasan ang ginagamit para manatili sa pwesto," Roxas said.
Citing data from the Philippine National Police, Roxas said there are 60 active private armed groups all over the country while there are another 37 potential groups being monitored.
But Roxas said that they are not forgetting the other provinces with the listing of the 15. He likewise said that the "areas of concern" will be a different list.
"There may be some provinces where one congressional district [is] an area of concern but not the entire province. Inuna natin ang places na may high risk. Hindi naman ibig sabihin kinalimutan na ang iba. Pinriority lang," he said.
"Gusto talaga nating maiwasan na maulit ang Maguindanao massacre kaya ngayon pa lang inuunahan na natin para hindi kami maging left behind, hindi behind the curve," he added.
The Maguindanao massacre, also known as the Ampatuan massacre, occurred on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. On that day, 58 people - 32 of whom were journalists - were bruttaly killed while they were on their way to file then Buluan vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor.
The DILG chief said the PNP began its operations in the 15 provinces early so that the risks may be lessened. The PNP is under the supervision of the DILG.
PNP Deputy Director General Alan Purisima, who has been touted to be the next PNP chief, said they will have several task forces, including one for legal offensive, firearms and security, logistics, and finance to prepare for the polls.
"There will [also] be regional task force that will be implementing out operations in each region," Purisima said.
Roxas added there will be a task force in each province, which he said can also help out during the holiday season.
"There will be intensified operations. Ngayon pa lang magkakaroon ng checkpoint, operation sita, operation bakal," he said.
Roxas said that among their priorities is the collection of loose firearms.
"There are estimated 35 thousand loose firearms in the country. There is [also] about 552, 338 firearms whose license has not been renewed. So technically illegal na ito," he said.
"Pupuntahan [namin] ang address ng bawat isa dito, kung kasama sa 15 probinsya. Kakatukin ng pulis, ipapa-deposito ang firearms habang nagpapa-renew ng lisensya para hindi imaging illegal ito, malaki ang parusa sa illegal possession of firearms," he added.
Roxas also said there will be a reshuffle among bodyguards of officials and an audit of jails in the province. He said the number of bodyguards will be limited to two per official.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome added that security personnel will be required to use a uniform while they are on duty.
"Ang mga protective agents, meron silang uniporme na gagamitin. Ito po ay mag-uumpisa sa aming pakikipag usap sa kalihim. December 10 mag uumpisa ang paggamit ng uniporme ng protective agents at PNP. Hindi na natin i-aallow ang mga naka-barong. Para ito sa mga nagparehistrong kandidato starting December 10," he said.
Aside from this, he said that the PNP will likewise establish a joint security desk with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He said that there will also be a media center which will operate 24/7, which will disseminate important information to the public through the media.
With all of these preparations, Roxas assured of a safe and peaceful electins next year.
"Iba ang halalan sa ilalim ni PNoy. Ito ay magiging ligtas, fair, orderly at kung ano ang tinig ng sambayan, siya ang lalabas. Hindi magpapagamit ang pulis at DILG para sa isang panig o kaninuman. Wala po kaming sasantuhin, hindi itop sa partido at kung anong tsaleko ang suot. Gagawing tama para maging ligtas ang magiging halalan," he said. — RSJ, GMA News