THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has placed Marawi City and seven towns in southern Philippines under its control ahead of the May 9 national and local elections, according to its chairman.
One of the seven towns is Maguing which, along with Marawi, is under Lanao del Sur province.
The six others are in Maguindanao province: Buluan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Datu Piang, Mangudadatu, Pandag, and Sultan Kudarat.
Both provinces are within the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, a historically restive area that is undergoing transition with a new political setup based on a peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Comelec Chief Saidamen B. Pangarungan said in a statement on Tuesday that the decision to put these areas under their control is based on the recommendation of the police, military, and Regional Election Director Ray F. Sumalipao.
Under the Constitution and subsequent Comelec resolutions, the election body can put an area under its control if the area has a history or intense rivalry among political parties; incidents of politically motivated violence involving candidates; the presence of private armed groups; and serious armed threats posed by terrorist groups.
Comelec earlier amended its gun ban rules, which included giving authority to the Comelec chief to declare election areas of concern under the agency’s control.
Interior Secretary Eduardo M. Año earlier said the Philippine National Police has identified 105 towns and 15 cities as election areas of concern. —John Victor D. Ordonez