OVERTURNING an earlier declaration by the Philippine National Police (PNP) that Pangasinan is among the election “high-risk” areas in the country, the Provincial Elections Office announced last week that it is not considering to classify any of the towns or cities in the province as an area of concern.
Provincial Elections Officer Marino Salas, who attended a joint command conference with the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines last week, explained that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is using different parameters in declaring a place as an area of concern or an area of immediate concern.
The election officer acknowledged that the PNP had other basis in declaring certain parts of the province as areas of concern in line with its mandate of maintaining peace and order.
Salas, speaking during the KBP forum on Thursday, said so far no town or city qualifies in the list of areas of concern but added that they will make a declaration “If we find… from the daily report from the police what had been happening since the election period began last January 13.”
An area of concern, he clarified, is far from the category of a “hot spot” for which an area of immediate concern belongs.
“If we find a place in Pangasinan qualified to be classified as an area of immediate concern, we will place the area under Comelec control,” he added.
During the command conference held Tuesday at the Police Provincial Office presided by Police Provincial Director officer-in-charge Marlou Chan, Salas reminded the police to remain impartial and “just do your sworn duty in this election, which is to ensure that voters will be free from intimidation and maintain peace and order.”
“Leave politics to politicians,” Salas told the police.
At the same time, Salas urged the police to communicate all their actions to his office or to the municipal/ city election officers but leave the team leaders of checkpoints to exercise their discretion, one which will not unduly jeopardize motorists and the commuting public.
“Even the police operations against loose firearms, including the so-called ‘Oplan Katok’ will still have to be communicated to us,” said Salas.
There were reports that students are among those complaining against Comelec checkpoints as they pose inconvenience while they are rushing to school.