PNP activates task force to closely watch election hotspot Masbate

CONFISCATED. PNP Bicol presents illegal firearms turned over by the politicians in the past election in the island province of Masbate. Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

CONFISCATED. PNP Bicol presents illegal firearms turned over by the politicians in the past election in the island province of Masbate.

Photo by Rhaydz Barcia/Rappler

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – With barangay elections less than a month away, the Philippine National Police will again keep a tight watch on the island province of Masbate, which has gained notoriety for election violence.

Th PNP Police Regional Office 5 activated the Regional Special Operation Task Force (RSOTF) to prevent election-related incidents in Bicol with emphasis on Masbate. 

Police Chief Superintendent Antonio Gardiola, the PNP regional director for Bicol, said the revival of the RSOTF was prompted by the 50 election-related shooting incidents reported since January in Masbate alone.

Masbate has always been tagged as an election hotspot by the Comelec and PNP because of intense political rivalries, presence of partisan political armed groups including the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, and proliferation of illegal firearms.

Gardiola said RSOTF is also tasked to maintain peace and order in areas considered as election areas of concern to prevent lawless elements from disrupting the barangay polls on May 14.

Police Senior Inspector Malu Calubaquib, PRO 5 spokesperson, said the Comelec has identified at least 666 villages out of 3,471 barangays as hotspots based on the 2013 barangay election.

“Most of the 666 Bicol hotspot villages were from Masbate,” Calubaquib said.

As this developed, at least 102,407 candidates filed their certificates of candidacy (COC) for various seats in the upcoming barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in Bicol.

Maria Juana Valeza, the Comelec regional director,  said ithat there are 7,639 candidates running for Punong Barangay (village chief), and 55,415 for village councillors or kagawads here.

In the SK level, 7,315 candidates filed for chairman while 32,038 for councilors or kagawad battling for 55,536 barangay and SK positions.

"The filing of COCs was peaceful and successful, I can say that we are 95 percent prepared to conduct the barangay and SK elections. We are just waiting for the delivery of the accountable forms, or ballots and election returns," Valeza said.

She said that all the ballot boxes have been delivered to polling centers. Valeza said all provincial directors will submit the COCs to Manila central office on Tuesday. – Rappler. com