MANILA, Nov. 19 (PIA) -- Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas has identified 15 provinces in the priority watch list of the Philippine National Police where there could be violence during the upcoming 2013 midterm elections.
In a statement, Roxas said the police have also identified 60 active private armed groups (PAGs) and another 47 with potential to become PAGs that could be utilized by politicians to harass and intimidate voters during the May 13 polls.
Roxas made the disclosures as he outlined the early preparations being made by the DILG and the PNP under the “Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE 2013)” program which detailed, among others, the estimated number of loose firearms and the presence of private armed groups and other threat groups that could cause violence in the identified high-risk areas.
“We want to show that elections are different under the administration of President PNoy to ensure that the will of the people is truly reflected in the elections. Under our democracy, elections are most important so that we can hear the voice of our people, our bosses.”
“We will make sure that elections are secure and fair. The PNP will treat everyone fairly,” Roxas said.
He said one of the characteristics of elections under the Aquino administration is the early preparation of the DILG and PNP to ensure a smooth, peaceful, and orderly electoral process.
“We are two and a half months earlier in our preparations. We did not wait for the campaign period to start,” he said. “There is a logical identification of high-risk areas, as well as the rational deployment of personnel and resources.”
The DILG chief said the 15 priority provinces considered as high-risk areas in terms of political violence are Abra, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan.
He said the provinces were included in the priority watch list based on several factors and objective criteria including the presence of private armed groups, loose firearms, intense political rivalries, past history of election violence, and the presence of other threat groups like terrorists and communist rebels, among others.
The PNP estimates around 363,000 loose firearms nationwide, with another 571,303 firearms with non-renewed licenses as per the records of the Firearms and Explosives Office.
“We do not want to be caught flat-footed. We are already creating Special Task Forces for each of these provinces with a command structure that will allow them to assist the provincial commander in the maintenance of peace and order,” he said. (DILG/RJB/JCP-PIA NCR)