Manila: Police have stepped up operations against armed partisan groups across the country ahead of the 2013 midterm elections.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Nicanor Bartolome, in a directive to units all over the country, said Partisan Armed Groups (PAGs) pose a threat to the peaceful conduct of the 2013 polls and thus, interdiction operations and legal offensive actions will be mounted against them.

Bartolome issued these instructions ahead of the official start of the election period in January. The polls are expected to held in May 2013 and Filipinos are expected to vote for their next set of national leaders (12 senators) and at least 350 congressional district representatives and party-list reprentatives as well as governors, mayors and aldermen.

Poll-related violence, such as voter intimidation, assassination and harassment has been a fixture of elections in the Philippines, especially in far-flung provinces.

This developed as police arrested on Sunday two members of a notorious Partisan Armed Group operating in northern Philippines’ Abra and nearby Cordillera provinces.

Earlier, the PNP had classified 15 provinces as election “hot spots”.

According to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas the PNP will implement measures to avert violence such as checkpoints and will dismantle private armed groups.

Roxas said that identifying a certain province as an election hot spot means there is a chance that election-related violence may erupt in these areas.

There are an estimated 100 private armed groups that operate in certain areas in the country aside from communist and Muslim rebels.

The PNP estimates that there are some 25,068 loose firearms nationwide, and a huge number of these weapons could be in the hands of armed groups working for politicians.

Over the past ten months from January to October, the PNP accounted for some 5,000 loose firearms in a nationwide campaign to take away illegal guns from the hands of PAGs, criminal elements and unauthorised individuals as part of election security measures for the 2013 national and local polls.