8 provinces poll hot spots

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Philippine National Police is considering putting more provinces under the control of the Commission on Elections due to threats posed by armed insurgents and heated political rivalries.

“As of now, Abra is the only province already under Comelec control but we are seeing more potential trouble spots like Masbate where there is a serious armed threat,” said PNP deputy chief for operations Deputy Director General Antonio P. Billones.

The other provinces are Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Sulu, Basilan, Lanao del Sur and Western Samar. These areas are known for having a large concentration of either the New People’s Army, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, and Abu Sayyaf Group as well as a history of bloody elections.

Billones however said there are fewer election-related violent incidents this year compared to the past four elections.

“We’re looking into 51 cases of ERVIs but so far, we have only validated 16 of them,” he said.

Four candidates have been confirmed killed in election-related incidents since Jan. 14.

During the 1995 elections, nine candidates were killed and one was wounded. In the 1998 elections, 14 were killed and 13 were wounded, while in 2001, 21 were killed and nine were wounded. The most violent elections were in 2004, when 41 candidates were killed while 18 were injured.

PNP deputy chief for administration Deputy Director General Avelino I. Razon Jr. said Task Force Usig headed by Director Geary L. Barias has confirmed that the killing of Kalinga Vice Governor Rommel Diasen who was running for governor was not election-related.

“The Diasen case is not politically- motivated. It was the result of a tribal war and a murder case has been filed against the suspect,” Razon said.

Barias said they have launched a massive hunt for Joel Melod, an 18-year-old Kalinga tribesman who was positively identified by witnesses as the gunman.

Melod, a member of the mixed Magnao-Lubuagan tribe reportedly killed Diasen to avenge the killing of Judge Milnar Lammawin a few years ago. Lammawin, a member of the Magnao tribe, was killed in an ambush believed to have been perpetrated by members of the Gulalayan tribe to which Diasen belonged.

Razon said they are also thoroughly investigating the killing of Comelec official Petronilo Amorin, Jr. in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on April 2. “We have a cop for a suspect in this case and we are looking if this is election-related,” he said.

The suspected gunman, Police Officer 1 Alfredo Carandang, is said to be a bodyguard of former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group retired Director Eduardo S. Matillano who is running for the mayoral post of Puerto Princesa City.

Razon said the National Capital Region Police Office is also investigating the case of Quezon (4th District) congressional candidate Vicente Rabaya Jr. who was gunned down in Quezon City two weeks ago.

“Hopefully, we can solve the Rabaya case as soon as possible. We are looking into two angles right now but I don’t want to preempt my investigators. All I can say is that we are on the right track,” NCRPO chief Deputy Director General Reynaldo P.Varilla said.