TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has placed 44 towns in Eastern Visayas on its election watch list in relation to the May 9 elections.

These are 15 towns in Samar, 12 towns in Leyte, nine in Northern Samar, seven in Eastern Samar, and one in Biliran.

Senior Supt. Brigido Unay, chief of the police regional intelligence division, said these places of concern have been consistently included in the past elections.

“These have been categorized as areas of concern because of past and recent election-related violence, presence of private armed groups, intense political rivalry, and insurgency problem,” Unay said.

Calbayog City and all towns within the first legislative district of Samar are included in the areas of concern. These are Almagro, Gandara, Matuguinao, Pagsanghan, San Jorge, Santa Margarita, Santo Niño, Tagapul-an, and Tarangnan.

Outside Samar’s first district identified in the watch list are Hinabangan, Paranas, Pinabacdao, San Jose de Buan, and Tarangnan.

The police official declined to disclose the specific areas in Leyte, Biliran, Northern Samar, and Eastern included in the watch list for 2016 polls, but he said the list are the same as in 2013.

Listed as hotspots in the last elections were Baybay and Ormoc cities and the towns of Bato, Inopacan, Kananga, Matag-ob, Tabango, San Miguel, Albuera, Burauen, Carigara, and Jaro in Leyte.

In Northern Samar, these places are Bobon, Catubig, Mapanas, Mondragon, Palapag, San Isidro, Gamay, Las Navas, Lavezares, Lope de Vega, Pambujan, Capul, and Victoria.

In Eastern Samar, these areas are Arteche, Taft, Can-avid, Dolores, Hernani, General MacArthur, Jipapad, and Quinapondan.

The only town in Biliran province on the watch list in the past elections was Kawayan.

Only the Southern Leyte province was not included in the police areas of concern this year.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Regional Director Jose Nick Mendros said there will be more deployment of police in these areas to ensure peaceful, orderly, and honest elections.

“More intensified checkpoints will be implemented in these areas to help prevent the occurrence of election-related violence,” Mendros added.

The Comelec, PNP, and the Philippine Army have stepped up security measures for the 9 May 2016 polls with the election period kick-off on Sunday.

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