Security forces are now on high alert status in the final stretch to secure the remaining days until the midterm elections next week when millions of voters are expected to flock polling precincts to elect senators and local officials.
Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has committed 70 percent of the military strength, which translates to 98,000 soldiers, for deployment to secure voting precincts especially in hotspot areas.
The number of soldiers who will be deployed will augment the at least 100,000 policemen, who in turn, will be tapped to assist the Commission on Elections in securing the transport of election paraphernalia before and after the May 13 polls and the polling precincts.
“Most of our forces have already been pre-deployed in preparation for the elections,” said Madrigal.
“Some troops in combat mode will also shift to election mode although our regular and non-combat operations will continue as necessary,” he added.
But he was quick to emphasize that a large number of soldiers will still continue with their anti-insurgency operations especially in areas with heavy presence of Moro extremist groups and communist rebels.
Yesterday, top officials of the police, military and the Comelec held a send-off ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City for policemen and soldiers who will render election duty on Monday.
“We have been tirelessly working together this past few months, the series of joint peace and security coordinating council national level meetings and the national joint security control center meeting have last 16 April 2019 have allowed us to instill necessary measures and lay down the joint operational guidelines for our troops who will be deployed in this elections to ensure the success of the upcoming political exercise,” said Madrigal in his speech.
“This is the third time in less than a year that we are working together for this same purpose, to allow our people to freely exercise their right to choose our leaders,” he added.
Gen. Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that the entire police force across the country has already been placed under highest security alert status.
“We are already on full alert status and as of this time we have partial deployment already in the different hubs,” said Albayalde.
He said at least 36,000 polling precincts will be secured for the Monday elections, each of them will be secured by at least two policemen.
But for critical areas, he said polling precincts will be secured by soldiers.
As of yesterday, the latest assessment is that there are 946 hotspot areas across the country — 540 of them are in Red category which means the occurrence of violence is most likely.
The rest of the poll hotspots fall under Orange and Yellow category, which means violence may not likely to occur, but the areas must be monitored and presence of policemen are needed to ensure that any brewing violence would dissipate.
“Our troops are ready for the job. While we expect security threats to continue and lawless elements to attempt to disrupt the elections in some areas, I must say we are fully prepared to face and address challenges that may come our way,” said Albayalde.
“We certainly have learned our lessons well from past election periods and we now draw from these lessons to avoid the same mistakes, improve our operations and achieve a truly peaceful and fair conduct of the elections,” he added.
Comelec Commissioner Al Parreno said that they are satisfied with the security preparations of the police and the military.
“They are formidable partners together with the Department of Education and other stakeholders,” said Parreno. (Aaron Recuenco)