The Philippine National Police (PNP) added the provinces of Abra, Nueva Ecija, and Lanao del Norte to its initial list of 6 provinces being closely monitored for election-related violence and politically-motivated incidents.
According to PNP Chief Dir. Gen. Ricardo Marquez, there will be an increase in the deployment of police personnel and senior officers in the said areas as a “proactive measure."
The other provinces that are included in the election watchlist areas (EWAs) identified in December last year are Pangasinan, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Western Samar, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur.
The PNP is also monitoring seven additional private armed groups from northern Luzon, on top of the 78 other groups that the police are already monitoring. Most of these are based in Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and in central Mindanao.
So far, records show that the number of election-related incidents has reached 63 nationwide from January 10 to March 31. In addition, 2, 779 violators of the election gun ban have already been detained and 2,121 firearms have been seized.
The PNP Chief said that despite some constraints, the PNP is on top of the safety operations for the May 9 polls. “The PNP is on its full thrust to ensure that the Filipino people will have a safe and fair elections this coming May,” said Marquez. He is confident that they can surpass PNP’s performance in the two previous elections: “To date, the election situation has remained relatively peaceful.”
Marquez said that the PNP is maintaining coordination with the military and other deputized agencies of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as they come up with a fine-tuned joint security plan for all election-related activities leading up to and during the May 9 polls.
“We have proven the strength of a whole-of-government approach. Agencies deputized by the Comelec should be put on board. I want a joint security plan for all facets of election activities,” Marquez said.
Marquez also said that the PNP only received a little more than half of the requested budget of P800 million from the Comelec so far. The PNP is set to distribute its election budget to field units by next week. The police force is also requesting for additional funds for police officers who have been deployed since the start of the election period in January.