By NITZ ARANCON
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) started reshuffling its key people in time for the start of the campaign period for candidates seeking national positions yesterday.
Here, a Comelec official from Zamboanga City replaced lawyer Renato Magbutay as regional director for northern Mindanao on orders from Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas.
Magbutay would serve as Comelec director for Region 12, and would be based on General Santos City.
He was replaced by lawyer Wilfredo Balisado from Region 9 based in Zamboanga City.
The officials are among the 16 Comelec regional directors who were reshuffled throughout the country. They would serve in their new areas of assignment only until after June 12, the last day of the election period. Then they would return to their previous assignments.
Magbutay said the reshuffling is not new to the Comelec directors, and this has been done in past elections.
“Gitoyo kini sa Comelec aron malikayan ang closeness tali sa mga Comelec officials ug mga politiko nga kandidato,” Magbutay said.
As the candidates for national positions hit the campaign trail yesterday, National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said some 701 areas in the country are being watched for being election hotspots.
Albayalde said there are 223 “areas of concern,” 382 “areas of immediate concern,” “94 areas of grave concern,” and two areas under Comelec control.
A place tagged as an area of concern means it has a history of election-related incidents in the last two elections and intense political rivalry, and it had been previously declared under Comelec control.
An area of immediate concern is a place where there is a serious armed threat posed by the New People’s Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf, and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and other lawless elements.
An areas of grave concern exhibits the combined factors under the previous two categories such that it may warrant the motu proprio (on its own) declaration of Comelec control.
Of the 94 areas of grave concern, 27 are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 19 in the Bicol region, seven each in Calabarzon and western Mindanao, six each in Mimaropa and western Visayas, five in northern Mindanao, four each in Soccsksargen and the Cordillera region, three in Eastern Visayas, two each in Central Luzon and Davao region and one each in Caraga and Cagayan Valley.
Based on the law, the Comelec may place any political subdivision under its immediate and direct control and supervision if, among other things, there is a history of or current intense political rivalry among contending parties, as these rivalries could motivate people to engage in violent acts. (with reports from PNA)