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Masbate, CamSur, Sorsogon are election hot spots -- PNP

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol yesterday identified at least 74 barangays where politically-related violence may occur in the run-up to themidterm election in May this year.

An election watch list as of January 28 this year shows that Masbate has the most number with 21 villagesthat have been marked as election areas of concern. Camarines Sur with 17 villages follows.

Coming in third isSorsogon, with 14 villages;Albay with11 villages;Catanduanes with 7 villages; and Camarines Norte with only four, according to Police Chief Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP Bicol spokesperson.

Calubaquib said that the list was collated from reports by PNP units across the region where election-related incidence were noted during the previous election period.

She said that the election watchlist could be the basis for the PNP, in collaboration with the Commission on Election (Comelec) and other agencies, to map out a strategy that would ensure clean and peaceful elections in the areas mentioned.

Calubaquib said the parameters in identifying areas to be placed on the election watch list include: intense political rivalry, the presence of armed groups, activities of criminal gangs, the proliferation of loose firearms, and activities of threat groups.

There are three categories which specify the level of concern: areas of concern (Category 1), immediate areas of concern (Category 2) and areas of grave concern (Category 3).

Category 1 refers to areas where there are monitored intense rivalry among the candidates, history of election-related violence arising from political rivalries, and the presence of private armed groups.

Category 2 refers to areas with monitored intense rivalry among the candidates, history of election-related violence arising from political rivalries, the presence of private armed groups and armed threats. Under this category, a major consideration is the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels’ extortion activities that demand from politicians “Permits to Campaign” and “Permit to Enter” areas claimed to be strongholds of the communist movement.

Category 3 has all the critical factors found in the two other categories, plus the proliferation of firearms.

The Comelecen banc has recently placed the town of Daraga under Comelec control following the killing of Ako Bicol Party List Rep.RodelBatocabe and his security escort SPO2 Orlando Diaz Dec. 22 last year.

Daraga Mayor CarlwynBaldo was tagged as the mastermind of the assassination plot.

Baldo is facing double murder and six counts of frustrated homicide.

Baldo recently was arrested for illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosive after the police, on strength of a search warrant, uncovered two .45 caliber revolvers, a 203 grenade and ammunition inside his residence.

Baldo is currently confined at the UST Legazpi Hospital after complaining of asthma and hypertension attack while in detention for the illegal firearms.

Meanwhile, Masbate has been consistently tagged as election hot spot since the last election because of the intense political rivalries among clans here, including election-related violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Both the Comelec and PNP in past elections have identified the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte as election areas of concern due to intense political rivalries obtaining and the presence of Private Armed Groups (PAGS) and the New People Army (NPA) rebels.

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