MANILA, Philippines – Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas has identified 15 provinces as “high risk” in the coming elections.
Roxas named Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batanagas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan as high-priority provinces.
“Itong 15 probinsiyang ito dito yung pinaka high-risk na magkaroon ng karahasan sa darating na halalan kaya ito yung pina-prioritize na probinsiya,” Roxas said.
Roxas, however, said that the Philippine National Police would still be monitoring and securing other provinces not on the list.
“Ang sinasabi lang, ito ang pinaka high-risk at dito, bago pa mag election period, magsisimula na ang operation ng PNP para makasiguro tayo. Election period begins next year pa. Pero para hindi tayo nabubulaga, ngayon pa lang magsisimula na ang operations ng PNP dito sa 15 provinces na ito para maaga pa matugunan na itong risk ng karahasan sa mga probinsiyang ito,” he said.
Flanked by PNP Chief Nicanor Bartolome and his reported successor, Deputy Director General Alan Purisima, Roxas laid down the government’s security plan for next year’s elections.
Roxas said private armed groups, loose firearms, threat groups and criminal elements remain a threat to peaceful and orderly elections.
He said there will be special task forces for each of the provinces identified as high-risk. Check points and intensified operations to neutralize private armed groups will also be conducted.
Bartolome said an inter-agency group will seek to ensure security in high-risk areas and other places during the elections.
Meanwhile, Purisima, head of the election security task force, said the government is doing everything and preparing early to prevent violence and bloodshed during the polls.
This is the first public appearance of Roxas, Bartolome and Purisima since the DILG secretary announced that he is endorsing Purisima as the replacement of Bartolome.
Earlier, President Aquino said Bartolome, who is set to retire in March, will soon be placed on non-duty status to give the next PNP chief enough time to prepare for the elections.