By Jennifer C. Tilos
A total of 2,692 security personnel are ready to be deployed to 535 voting centers in the province to secure and ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of the May 13 midterm polls.
In a final command conference yesterday with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) presented its security plans especially in election watchlist areas (EWAS).
Brig. Gen. Rey Lawas, Deputy Director for Operation of PNP National Headquarters, reminded the police and military officials to follow Comelec guidelines and remain neutral and apolitical.
“As you presented your security plans it appeared that you are ready, and be sure these are under the guidance of the election officers in your respective areas for smooth implementation of the plan,” said Lawas.
However, the security forces are also advised to be on guard even if the plans are in place.
In a Regional Joint Security Coordinating Center (RJSCC) meeting earlier, PNP identified ten EWAS in the province, namely the municipalities of La Libertad, Bindoy, Siaton, San Jose, Manjuyod, Sta. Catalina, Ayungon, Mabinay, and cities of Guihulngan and Canlaon.
With this, an additional three PNP personnel will be deployed to 78 voting centers under EWAS with a total of 234 police forces.
Lawas cited PNP’s mandate along with the marching orders of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as well the Chief of PNP an AFP to dismantle all private armed groups (PAGs).
However, Central Visayas has no records of PAGs based on Regional Police Office-7 reports, but the Negros Oriental Police Office (NOrPO) reported that communist terrorists may be utilized by the politicians during the election period.
Lawas also reminded members of the security forces to ensure that this year’s midterm election be clean and credible, and the electorates can cast their vote freely without fear or intimidation.
“We also encourage the community to report any police or member of the security force who become partisan kasi pangit tingnan and hindi talaga tama, they will be answerable in the days to come if ever they will be doing it,” Lawas urged.
PNP remains on full alert and assured the public of a safe and secure elections as the troops will be more active and strengthen the campaign against loose firearms, wanted persons, gun for hire groups and violation of Comelec gun ban through service of warrant of arrest and implementation of search warrants during checkpoint operations and police patrol response.
However, in the overall assessment of NOrPO, the peace and order in Negros Oriental remain calm and manageable despite the presence of communist rebels.