MAGANES: Pangasinan is an ‘election hotspot area’
The official election period has started last January 10, which means the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has authority over the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to ensure an honest, orderly and peaceful elections.
Associated with the election period is the enforcement of gun ban- both licensed and unlicensed, and the carrying of deadly weapons. Comelec checkpoints are also established and manned by PNP to monitor the movements of vehicles including motorcycle riding in tandem. To thwart off violence, Comelec has identified ” election watchlist areas (EWAS)” or known as ” hotspot areas”.
There are six provinces identified by the Comelec as “hotspot areas” – Pangasinan, Masbate, Negros Oriental, Samar, Maguindanao and Lanao Del Sur. These areas are known in past elections as places where political related crimes are imminent including violence-related activities. While the five other areas are prone to political violence during elections political pundits are wondering why Pangasinan is included in the list.
Last December 2015 when Comelec issued the list of EWAS, Pangasinan Provincial Elections Supervisor Marino Salas said it was premature to include Pangasinan but explained it just be a “preemptive move to prevent violence before, during and after the May 2016 elections.” Pangasinan since 2007 was already a part of EWAS following the bloody murder of then San Carlos City Mayor Julian Resuello.
Who could forget also the gory killing of Infanta Mayor Ruperto Martinez in December 2012? Both killings are still unsolved as of now. Because of Pangasinan inclusion in EWAS, we could expect additional deployment of members of PNP including those provinces that are included in the list.
Personally, I agree with the inclusion of Pangasinan as an election hotspot area. The local campaign has not yet started but election related untoward incidents are already taking place. The tarpaulins of gubernatorial aspirant Mark Cojuangco in the eight villages of Bugallon town burned and torn down lately. We are all aware that said town is the turf of Governor Amado T. Espino Jr., the mayor of which is no other than his son Jumel Anthony.
While it could not be directly attributed to them the said incident, normal minds dictate that there are no other possible parties that have the temerity to do the said incidents. Cojuangco will be pitted against the other son of Espino for governor and Governor Espino is challenging 5th District Rep. Kimi S. Cojuangco ( wife of Mark) for the congressional seat in the district. With this situation, the political rivalry between the two camps is heightened, leaving speculations that there will be escalated political tension once the local campaign period starts.
The scenario for a violent election in Pangasinan is imminent. The sitting governor as early as July last year has uttered veiled threats against media men who are critics of his administration. Aired over two radio stations, Espino said that “he could not control his followers who “loved” him in sowing fear not only to media men but including their families.” Those threats alone are enough to put Pangasinan as a watchlist area and I think the provincial election supervisor of Pangasinan is not aware of it.
Could the PNP elements of Pangasinan guarantee the safety of media men who are critical to Espino’s administration? Can they monitor the movements of unscrupulous persons who might harm these media men? The political scenario in Pangasinan appears bleak as to ensuring the safety of those against the present provincial administration and that include village officials, municipal officials and other political leaders who are supportive to the Cojuangcos.
On March 25, the local campaign will start. As the election day approaches, the political heat will become more intense. Both political camps will move heaven and earth to ensure their victories and what will be trapped along the political activities are the supporters of the contending parties. High level campaigns like talking about political platforms will be put aside. Instead black propagandas, mudslinging and threats will be employed by those with low political support from the electorates.
Let’s hope and pray this election exercise will be peaceful, fair and credible.
( For comments, email me at email@example.com. Visit my blog The Roving Pen at http://www.virgilmaganes.wordpress.com. Listen to my radio programs ” Ang Bagong Bayan Po(e)” aired over DZRD Sonshine Radyo Dagupan City, Mondays to Fridays at 8:00-9:00 AM and ” On Your Marks,2nd Edition” over DWPR Radyo Asenso,- Mondays to Fridays at 10:15-11:15 AM)
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