BSKE in Eastern Mindanao generally peaceful -- AFP-EastMinCom

By Francis Wakefield

The Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-EastMinCom) today said the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Election (BSKE) in the area of Eastern Mindanao was generally peaceful despite the New People's Army (NPA) reported violation of its self-declared ceasefire.

Supporters of a Maranaw candidate seeking reelection as a village chief gather Saturday, the last day of campaign period, to show their support to their village chief in Barangay 23-C, a known Maranaw –dominated barangay in Davao City. (Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN) (Keith Bacongco / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

AFP EastMincom spokesman Major Ezra Balagtey said this after suspected NPA terrorists in Agusan del Sur harassed a CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) Patrol Base in Sinacungan in the town of Esperanza at about 4 a.m. yesterday, which caused the delay of the voting in the said barangay.

Balagtey said in a report submitted by Brig. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, commander of the Army's 402nd Infantry Brigade, the exchange of fire lasted until 6 a.m. The troops immediately restored normalcy and allowed the start of elections in the area a little bit late than the supposed time of opening.

The report further stated that there were no casualties on the government side.

During clearing operations, troops were able to recover one M16 rifle and one M203 grenade launcher with an index finger believed to be that of a wounded NPA terrorist.

In a separate incident, a possible NPA terrorist atrocity was prevented after troops from the 66th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, seized M16 rifle and an M14 rifle hidden in an arms cache in Barangay Manurigao, New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province.

The discovery came after an information came from a concerned citizen in the said barangay.

AFP EastMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr. lauded the effort and initiatives of troops to make the election peaceful and orderly and at the same time slammed the NPA terrorists on the violation of their own ceasefire in CARAGA.

“It is good that the troops observed and maintained cautiousness and alertness and that we remained focused on securing the communities from the terror attack of the NPA terrorists," Madrigal said.

"This incident once again proved that their deceptive declaration of ceasefire is just a ploy for them to carry out their terroristic acts against the people and sabotage the elections," he added.

Despite this incident Madrigal assessed the Barangay and Sanggunaing Kabataan Elections in Eastern Mindanao to be peaceful and orderly and attributed it to the close coordination of the different stakeholders of the election.

"After we have received the reports from the different Election Monitoring Action Centers (EMAC) in Eastern Mindanao, and that no other incident took place after the elections opened at 7 a.m. on May 14, 2018. Majority of the winners were also declared on time," Madrigal said.

"Further our election officers, supervisors and inspectors were all safe. Hence, we have assessed the conduct of election in the command's area of responsibility to be peaceful and successful. We attribute this to the contingency measures we have laid out including the deployment of sufficient number of troops, the close coordination with the Comelec, PNP, AFP, other stakeholders particularly the tireless teachers who maintained their composure and sensitivity during the exercise," Madrigal concluded.

It was recalled that about 8, 500 troops were deployed in implementing the comprehensive and Integrated Interagency Security Plan of Comelec, AFP and PNP while additional troops were organized and placed on standby to form part of the regional, provincial and municipal rapid deployable force and quick reaction teams.