By Raphael E. Polintan
The Commission of Elections (COMELEC) on Monday, February 14, identified six additional “areas of concern” in Negros Occidental for the national and local elections, bringing the total tagged areas to 18 localities.
Although acting Negros Occidental Elections Supervisor Roberto Salazar did not reveal the names of the election hotspots, he said that the areas were tagged because of the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Salazar added that the joint forces of the local police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will continue to monitor potential election hotspots, but also pointed out that the situation in the province is under control and not alarming.
According to the poll body, there are three levels of concern that may be assigned to places believed to have potentially hostile activity. An “area of concern” is when there is a presence of alarming political rivalries and election-related violence; an “area of immediate concern” is when there are rebels and armed groups in the area; and finally, a location is an “area of grave concern” when the last two factors are present.
The COMELEC previously identified 12 areas of concern in Negros Occidental. Don Salvador Benedicto was categorized as an area of concern by the agency while Silay, Victorias, Himamaylan, Kabankalan, Manapla, Toboso, Binalbagan, and Hinobaan were labeled as areas of immediate concern. Only Candoni, Moises Padilla, and Escalante City have been tagged as areas of grave concern.
Meanwhile, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO) has bolstered their security operations and is now on full alert after a teenager and two of their personnel were injured on Sunday, February 13, following an explosion caused by a landmine detonated by the NPA in Binalbagan.
Lt. Charles Richard Casalan and Cpl. Julius Tranquillero were responding to a report of a lifeless body in Bi-ao when armed men fired upon them. When the two officers returned fire, the communist group allegedly detonated the anti-personnel mine before retreating.
A 15-year old boy was caught in the crossfire and sustained injuries. The two policemen were also injured but are now in stable condition.
Espina, M. (2022, February 14). 18 ‘areas of concern’ identified in Negros Occidental. Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/nation/comelec-areas-concern-negros-occidental-2022-polls/
Gomez, C. (2022, February 14). Comelec tags more ‘election areas of concern’ in Negros Occidental. Philippine Daily Inquirer. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1554247/comelec-tags-more-lgus-in-negros-occidental-as-election-areas-of-concern
Guadalquiver, N. (2022, February 15). NegOcc cops on full alert after NPA attack in southern Negros. Philippine News Agency. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1167856