By Carla P. Gomez | Inquirer.net
BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has placed six additional localities in Negros Occidental under “election areas of concern.”
Acting Negros Occidental Elections Supervisor Roberto Salazar, however, had yet to reveal the names of the six local government units (LGUs) that have been tagged as hot spots because of the presence of communist rebels in these areas.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police, he said, would continue to assess other potential areas of concern in the province.
They, however, were quick to downplay the situation in Negros Occidental, saying it has been “contained” and “not alarming.”On Feb. 7, the Comelec identified five cities and seven towns in Negros Occidental as “election areas of concern” due to intense political rivalries and/or the presence of communist rebels and private armed groups.
Based on the updated lists, the town of Don Salvador Benedicto was tagged as an “area of concern”; the cities of Silay, Victorias, Himamaylan, and Kabankalan, and the towns of Manapla, Toboso, Binalbagan and Hinoba-an as “areas of immediate concern”; and the towns of Candoni and Moises Padilla, and Escalante City as “areas of grave concern.”
According to the poll body, a town or city may be categorized as an “area of concern” if it has a history of poll-related violence and the occurrence of intense political rivalries.
The “areas of immediate concern,” on the other hand, are those known for the presence of communist rebels and/or private armed groups. Those classified as “areas of grave concern” have a combination of the factors identified in areas of concern and immediate concern.
The campaign period for candidates in local elective positions — members of the House of Representatives and for the provincial, city and municipal officials — begins on March 25 and ends on May 7. The national (president, vice president, senators) and local elections will be held on May 9.
This early, police reported a land mine attack blamed on suspected communist rebels in Binalbagan, one of the towns identified as an area of immediate concern.
On Sunday, two policemen and a minor were injured in an attack in the village of Bi-ao in Binalbagan town believed to have been staged by the New People’s Army, the report said.
Policemen from the town were responding to a report that communist rebels have killed an individual in Sitio Nursery of Bi-ao when they were attacked.
The law enforcers on board a police vehicle had reached Sitio Candida 2 of the village past 8 a.m. when an improvised explosive device exploded, hurting the two policemen, a report from the town’s police said.
According to Maj. Ellendie Rebusquillo, Binalbagan police chief, a 15-year-old boy was caught in the crossfire during the ensuing gunbattle, wounding him in the buttock.
The driver of the police’s Hilux pickup got lucky when the bullet that was heading to his chest hit his cellular phone instead, Rebusquillo said.
Injured but in stable condition were Lt. Charles Richard Casalan, Binalbagan deputy police chief, and Cpl. Julius Tranquillero, Rebusquillo said.