MANILA, Philippines --- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its deputized agents will have to deal with 889 areas under the election watchlist, more commonly known as ''hotspots,'' as the 120-day election period starts tomorrow.
The number of election hotspots was revealed yesterday by Senior Superintendent Nestor Bergonia of the Task Force 2013 at a command conference at the Comelec head office in Intramuros, Manila.
Of the 889 election hotspots, 106 are found in vote-rich Region 1 (Ilocos).
Aside from the hotspots, poll officials will brace for intense rivalries involving 17 gubernatorial seats, 13 congressional posts, and 163 mayoral seats.
Bergonia said the election hotspots were identified based on the occurrence of election violence, intense political rivalry, presence of private armed groups and other threat groups, occurrence of politically motivated violent incidents even outside election period, and proliferation of firearms.
To ensure peace and order, the Comelec will start setting up checkpoints tonight.
''We are setting up checkpoints tomorrow (Saturday) night as a sort of a dry run because Sunday is already the start of the gun ban,'' Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said in a press briefing.
''We'll just try to see in Metro Manila... look for proper locations where we can set up the checkpoints,'' he added.
Brillantes said they want to start the set-up today so that by Sunday the checkpoints are already in place.
''We just want to see what are the requirements of checkpoints like proper uniforms, the area is lighted, and that there are escorts,'' he said.
But the poll chief said they do not expect any problem on peace and order in Metro Manila.
''We are more concerned about setting up checkpoints in the provinces. We don't expect any major peace and order problems here in Manila, but more in the provinces,'' said Brillantes.
The Comelec had earlier directed the establishment of one checkpoint for each of the country's 140 cities and 1,494 municipalities.
The commission en banc said the checkpoint is necessary for the effective implementation of the gun ban during the 120-day period.
''There shall be at least one Comelec checkpoint in each city/municipality,'' read the Comelec Resolution 9588.
However, police and military authorities are given the choice to establish additional check points ''when circumstances warrant'' but only upon giving notice to the concerned Election Officer (EO).
The commission said the checkpoints should have signboards measuring three by four feet, bears the names and address of the EOs and commanding officers, and labeled on both sides in bold letters on a white background in order for the public to clearly identify it from a reasonable distance.
As for the military and police personnel manning the checkpoints, the Comelec said they must be in complete uniform and shall not be under the influence of liquor/drug.