Comelec adds 7 provinces to 'areas of concern', assures smooth polls

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Following the Comelec’s decision to place Misamis Oriental on its list of areas of immediate concern, Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes on Thursday revealed that at least six more provinces had also been put on the list.

“Oo, may nadagdag,” Brillantes said in a joint press conference with the Philippine National Police and the National Telecommunications Commission in Camp Crame.

He refused to reveal which provinces were being closely watched, but assured the public that police presence will be intensified in those areas.

Related story: Lacierda challenges NPA rebels: 'Make my day'

Earlier, Comelec declared 15 provinces were being monitored, similar to the list prepared by the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Brillantes revealed that the 15 areas were historically where election-related crimes have taken place.

Misamis Oriental was elevated to an area of immediate concern last Tuesday following the ambush on Gingoong Mayor Ruth Guingona over the weekend.

“Pag sabihin nating Masbate, Sulu, alam natin yan are always areas of concern. Dahil inambush yung Mayor [sa Gingoog] naging area of immediate concern, magpadala ka ng augmentation group,” Brillantes said.

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The New People’s Army has since claimed responsibility for the attack, an additional reason why the Comelec elevated it to an area of immediate concern.

“NPA ito, proof of harm. Hindi 'to away ng politiko. Inamin nila, eh,” Brillantes said.

The Commissioner also reminded the media that the Comelec has abolished the use of the term “hotspots”.

This has been replaced with the four degrees of areas of concerns: area of concern, area of immediate concern, area of grave concern, and area under Comelec-control.

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“Pagka malala na talaga, grave concern. Tapos Comelec controlled. Di kami magdedeclare ng Comelec-controlled until maliwanag na maliwanag, gulo na. Maraming namatay, total breakdown of peace and order, tsaka lang we use the extreme remedy of Comelec controlled. Ang ibig sabihin kasi ng Comelec controlled, ite-take over na namin yung buong probinsiya, yung buong munisipyo. Kami na magpapatakbo, mawawala na yung mayor dun,” Brillantes explained.

Meanwhile Brillantes remained firm that the poll body will not tolerate NPA checkpoints. Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III had asked the military and police to dismantle them.

“[Kung ayaw nilang buwagin,] magkikita kita na lang sa kalye. Tutugunan natin ang utos ng pangulo na di hahayaan yung panggugulo,” Brillantes said. — DVM, GMA News

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