Four platoons of Army soldiers have been deployed to Negros Oriental to augment the existing forces that will secure the polling precincts for the October 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).
Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, Visayas Command (Viscom) chief, said on Tuesday, October 16, that troops from Eastern Visayas attended the send-off ceremony in Tacloban City on Monday and traveled straight to Negros Oriental.
“The peace and order situation in Negros Oriental remains very much under control. However, we don’t want to take any chances. This is to ensure the safety and security of our people, as they exercise their rights and cast their votes in the upcoming BSKE,” he said.
The augmentation force of over 120 personnel is in line with the pronouncement of the egional director of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Central Visayas, lawyer Lionel Marco Castillano, that personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be deployed to the 549 clustered voting centers in Negros Oriental, along with Philippine National Police personnel.
“We will adhere to the directive of the Comelec pertaining to the security deployment in Negros Oriental since the entire province is under their control for the duration of the election period. The additional troops will provide us with flexibility, as we secure not only the voting centers but also the entire province and ensure a safe, peaceful and orderly election,” Arevalo added.
Negros Oriental currently has nine villages under the Comelec watchlist, eight of which are under the category of areas of immediate concern (AIC) due to the reported presence of New People’s Army, and one under the category of areas of concern (AOC) due to intense political rivalry.
According to the Comelec in Central Visayas, AFP personnel who will render election duty in Negros Oriental will be deployed inside the voting centers along with the PNP members.
In other places, AFP personnel are only allowed beyond the 50-meter radius from the voting centers.
Castillano thanked Viscom for its “commitment to ensuring secure, accurate, and fair elections in Negros Oriental.”
“This would assure the voters and stakeholders of Negros Oriental that they could exercise their right to vote free from fear, intimidation, and violence. Hopefully, the voters would go out and vote on the election day,” Castillano said.
He said having soldiers at the precincts has been a practice in Cebu, especially in areas where security is a problem.
The electoral boards will issue an order of detail for peace officers that will specify when the latter can enter the 50-meter voting area perimeter and how near they can come to further ensure safety of all stakeholders.*PNA