By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
No village among 51 election “areas of concern” in Negros Occidental will be placed under control by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Comelec-Negros Occidental elections supervisor Atty. Ian Lee Ananoria said that placing an area under Comelec control requires the approval of the poll body’s en banc.
He said the identification of election hotspots is based on historical violence rather than political factors.
He added that neighboring Negros Oriental came under Comelec control due to election-related violence linked to politics.
Among the 51 villages in Negros Occidental, three barangays are tagged as “areas of grave concern,” 45 as “areas of immediate concern,” and three as “areas of concern.”
An area categorized as an election area of concern has recorded election-related incidents in the past two years, while areas of immediate concern signify a serious armed threat from New People’s Army (NPA) or armed individuals.
A village placed under the category of areas of grave concern indicates the presence of armed rebels, employment of partisan armed individuals, intense political rivalry, and a history of election-related incidents, according to Comelec.
The province has a total of 662 barangays.
The Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center, in a command conference at Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City on September 21, approved the declaration of 172 barangays in Western Visayas as election areas of concern.
At least 51 barangays in Negros Occidental were identified as Election Watchlist Areas (EWAs) in preparation for the synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections on October 30.
The Philippine Army recommended 55 barangays in the province to be included in the EWAs due to sightings of NPA.
Earlier, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said there is no need to be alarmed as the declaration of areas of concerns doesn’t necessarily mean intense political rivalries among the candidates./DGB, WDJ