By Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY ---- Police Chief Supt. Antonio Gardiola Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol Chief on Tuesday has activated the Regional Special Operation Task Force (RSOTF) aimed at preventing election-related incidents that could happen in areas considered as election hotspot in the May Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election this year, PNP Bicol spokesperson said today.
Police Senior Inspector Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP Bicol spokesperson said the activation of the RSOTF was firmed up following reports of election-related incidences were reported in the Bicol provinces.
Calubaquib in a phone interview said Gardiola PNP revived the RSOTF after at least 50 election-related shooting incident occurred from January to date in Masbate province alone.
The task force aside from monitoring and maintaining peace in order in areas considered as election areas of concern or hotspot it would also prevent and wage an offensive against lawless elements that would sow fear and disrupt the upcoming barangay election campaign on May this year especially by the political armed group or communist rebels, Gardiola’s directive said.
Masbate province has always been tagged by the Comelec and PNP as election hotspot during past elections due to intense political rivalries, the proliferation of firearms, the presence of political armed groups including the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in the island province.
Meanwhile, the PNP in Bicol has clarified on Tuesday that only 666 villages in the region were identified as hotspots based on the 2013 Barangay election, Calubaquib said
News report quoted Police Chief Supt. John Bulalacao PNP spokesman at a news conference in Camp Crame citing Bicol as the top-ranked region with over a thousand villages tag as hotspot areas followed by the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Calubaquib in an interview said it has submitted to the PNP central office the corrected figure of 666 villages considered as election areas of concern or hot spot as against the 1,245 hot spot villages earlier reported.
She said the hundreds of hotspot villages was declared by the Commission on Election or Comelec during the 2013 barangay election where of the 666 Bicol hotspot villages most of them were from Masbate considered as an election hotspot province during an election period.
Calubaquib said currently there are 3.471 villages in Bicol.
Calubaquib citing statistics during the 2013 Barangay election said ARMM remained as the top region where hotspot areas exist while Bicol placed second.
Parameters when an area is called an “election hotspot.” First, an area should have a history of the intense partisan political rivalry. Second, there have been incidents in the past that are politically motivated and election-related. Third, the presence of threat groups such as political armed groups, the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. Fourth, the proliferation of firearms in a certain town, cities, and province.