BONTOC, Mountain Province – Some eighteen barangays in six towns of this landlocked province were initially included under the election watchlist areas of the Provincial Join Security Coordinating Council (PJSCC) for the May 14, 2018 synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
Senior Superintendent Allen S. Ocden, provincial director of the Mountain Province Provincial Police Office, revealed that the barangays were considered as election watchlist areas in the province because of alleged previous and current presence of New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels, aside from [previous reported election related violence and incidents such as burning of the precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine and the hostage of the ballots with the assistance of armed rebels.
Ocden identified the election watchlist areas as barangays Aguid and Fidilisan in Sagada; barangays Tambuan, Laylaya and Ambagiw in Besao; Mainit, Dalican and Guinaang in Bontoc; Bunot, Anonat, Baccari, Palitud Burngal in Paracelis; Saclit and Betwagan in Sadanga; Balintaugan, Bagnen Oriente, Bagnen Proper in Bauko and barangay Maducayan in Natonin.
“We have to sustain the implementation of our peacekeeping and anti-criminality interventions coupled with our anti-terrorism campaign to help in ridding the identified election watchlist areas with untoward incidents that will affect our desire to have honest, orderly and peaceful elections in our beloved province,” Ocden stressed.
The police official rallied the people of the concerned barangays to cooperate with the police and military personnel in their efforts to maintain law and order not only in the identified election watchlist areas but also in other barangays province-wide so that the integrity and the credibility of the upcoming political exercise will not be compromised by whatever questionable incidents that will taint the conduct of the polls.
Ocden appealed to the voters of the province to go out and vote for their desired barangay officials on election day so that those deserving to be their leaders will be the ones that will eventually be proclaimed as the winning candidates in their own barangays that will eventually be translated to better public service when they assume public office.
According to him, the presence of a good number of election watchlist areas does not directly mean that the conduct of elections in the province is not orderly and peaceful because the election related violence and incidents happened in the past that is why there is a need to closely monitor the said areas again in the forthcoming elections to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents that will compromise the integrity and credibility of the elections.
He claimed people of Mountain province should be proud of their unity and cooperation that made the province as the second most peaceful province in the country after Batanes because it only shows that residents understand that peace is the foundation of development in the future.
Ocden stated that the PJSCC is currently reviewing its existing security plan for the May 2018 barangay and SK elections so that final adjustments could be done depending on the prevailing situation while the political exercise is just around the corner.