Comelec, other gov’t agencies yet to come up with ‘poll hotspots’

By Jennifer P. Rendon

The Commission on Elections (Comelec)-led Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center (RJSCC) has yet to identify election watchlist areas (EWAs), or commonly known as election hotspots, in Region 6 for the October 30, 2023 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.

Atty. Dennis Ausan, Comelec-6 regional director, said that they could only come up with the evaluation and assessment of possible EWAs once the filing of the certificate of candidacy (COC) is over.

The COC filing started Monday, August 28, and will run until September 2.

“Eventually, we will see immediately after the filing of the COC wherein we can further evaluate and assess things if the parameters in classifying EWAS would apply to certain localities,” he said.

Along the way, provincial, city and municipal level JSCC would be submitting their list of EWAs.

At the level of the region, Ausan said they would come up with a final list around September “depending on how things would turn out.”

But he said that the evaluation would be continuously done until the whole stretch of the election period.

“Pero sa ngayon, wala pa. One of the parameters that we would be using in classifying an area as an election watchlist is political rivalry. We would know that once candidates have filed their COC,” he said.

Meanwhile, Brigadier General Sidney Villaflor, Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 director, said that the police deployment for the BSKE 2023 will also be known once the filing of the COC is over.

“The deployment of personnel will depend on the situation on the ground. ‘Pag tapos na ang filing, doon namin malalaman if may previous na silang away o anuman,” Villaflor said.

Villaflor said they will then assess if there is a need to beef up police personnel in a certain area.

2018 DATA

In the May 2018 BSKE, Western Visayas EWAs numbered to 129. The number is around 3.18 percent of Western Visayas’ 4,051 villages.

Based on PRO-6 records, 35 of the 129 of barangays were in Category 1; 87 for Category 2; and 7 for Category 3.

Category 1 are barangays where politically-motivated violent incidents are likely to occur due to intense partisan and political rivalries.

Meanwhile, Category 2 barangays are those with armed threats from organized groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

On the other hand, Category 3 are villages where both factors described under Category 1 and Category 2 are present.

Most of these areas were in Negros Occidental with 77 barangays – 3 each in Categories 1 and 3 and 71 for Category 2.

Iloilo province had 28 barangays under EWAs while Capiz had 15 villages.

Meanwhile, Aklan had 4, Iloilo City had 3, and Antique had 2 barangays in the EWAs list.

Bacolod City and Guimaras had no villages considered as EWAs.