By MAR S. ARGUELLES
THE TOWNS of Labo and Capalonga in CamNorte have been tagged as election hot spots due to the intense political rivalries and the presence of private armed groups and New People’s Army (NPA), according to the Commisison on Election
These two towns are among the 27 towns and one city that have been placed under close watch by Comelec and police authorities due to the presence of armed groups during the previous elections.
Police Superintendent Renato Bataller, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said 14 towns in Masbate were considered as election hot spots, followed by CamSur with six towns including Iriga City; Sorsogon with four towns; CamNorte with two towns, and; Albay with only one.
None in the island province of Catanduanes was considered a hot spot.
Quoting a report after a joint Comelec-PNP meeting held recently, Bataller named 14 towns, out of 20 towns in Masbate, that were considered as election hot spots: Balud, Cataingan, Claveria, Dimasalang, Milagros, Placer, San Fernando, San Pascual, Aroroy, Balena, Palanas, Uson and Mobo.
Of these 14, nine were listed under Category 1 of the election watch list due to intense political rivalries obtaining there, which may result to violent incidents during the election period.
The rest of the five towns were placed under Category 2 due to the presence of New People’s Army rebels in their respective areas.
Bataller said the Regional Special Operation Task Group (RSOTG) in Masbate is closely monitoring the reported presence of so-called private armed groups (PAGs) in the four towns of Balud, Dimasalang, Milagros and Placer.
He said two private armed groups under the Arizobal and Villaruel groups are believed employed by local politicians in these areas.
In CamSur, the towns placed under Category 1 are Pasacao, Siruma, Lupi, Bula, and Bato, and the City of Iriga where intense political rivalries exist.
In Sorsogon towns, the towns of Barcelona, Bulusan, Irosin and Magallanes were considered hot spots.
In CamNorte, the towns being watched are Labo and Capalonga.
In Albay, only the town of Malinao was considered under Category 1.
Catanduanes appears worry-free as far as the authorities are concerned because not a single town was tagged as an election hot spot.
The PNP regional office said it would deploy additional police forces in those areas identified as hot spots.
Newly-installed Bicol PNP Regional Director Police Chief Supt Clarence Guinto said 188 check points manned by some 1,000 policemen have been set up in various points of the region. – Bicol Mail