More than two weeks before the May 9 elections, Provincial Comelec supervisor Roberto Salazar Jr. recently said that there are no indications any local government units in Negros Occidental may be possibly placed under Comelec control.
Should there be, Salazar said that the recommendation will be coming from the Comelec, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. However, there is none, he added.
Salazar disclosed that the number of election areas of concern have remained at 19 in Negros Occidental, including the highly urbanized Bacolod City.
The municipality of Moises Padilla, which had been placed under Comelec control in the 2019 elections due to election violent incidents, intense political rivalries, existence of private armed groups and presence of New People’s Army rebels, is under the red category, along with four other LGUs.
In the past several weeks, gunbattles have ensued between government security forces and suspected New People’s Army rebels in the hinterlands of Himamaylan City and Cauayan in Negros Occidental, Guihulngan City and Sibulan in Negros Oriental.
Salazar said he was repeatedly assured by ranking military and police officials in the province that they are on top of the security situation, and that armed engagements were a result of their intensified internal security operations.
“There is nothing to worry about,” he added.
Himamaylan City and Cauayan are under the orange category due to reported presence of rebels in their respective hinterland areas.
Maj. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said the NPA in Negros Island has diminished over the years compared to the previous elections.
“Compared to three years ago, there’s a big improvement already (in our counter-insurgency operations), their (NPA) activities decreased dramatically and I can see that the organization is really weakened,” Arevalo said.
He however emphasized the need for sustained operations against the insurgents to ensure that they can no longer recover the forces they previously had in the past years.
“Of course, we will still not take chances for as long as there are still a number of them and they still have the propensity to really recover, that is why we are doing our best, not letting our guards down and keeping up with our operations,” Arevalo said. (Gilbert Bayoran via The Visayan Daily Star (TVDS) with report from Philippine News Agency, photo courtesy of TVDS)