By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Leaders of the House of Representatives see nothing wrong with the deployment of additional soldiers and police in THE Bicol region and some provinces in the Visayas.
Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu and Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento rallied behind President Duterte’s Memorandum Order (MO) No. 32 which allowed the reinforcement of soldiers and policemen to Samar, Negros Oriental and Negros Occidental, and Camarines Sur to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror”.
“I fully support the initiative of the administration in deploying additional troops to curb lawless violence in some parts of the country. During times like these, we must remain vigilant against those who threaten our peace, for violence has no place in a democratic society such as ours,” Abu said.
Under MO. 32 issued last week, intensified intelligence operations and the investigation and prosecution of people behind “acts of violence” shall be pursued.
Sarmiento, vice chairman of the House Committees on Dangerous Drugs and Transportation, said President Duterte’s order is an “answered prayer” for the people of Samar who are constantly being terrorized by private armed groups (PAGs) during election season.
“Samar is a constant hotbed of political assassinations and harassment during election season. Many of these armed goons employed by some politicians are mostly criminals involved in other illegal activities and communist rebels involved in extortion,” Sarmiento said.
“This move to deploy more troops in Samar in other areas deemed as election hotspots is definitely a welcome relief for most people of Samar. It is an answered prayer for us,” he said.
He noted that in Samar, PAGs and hired guns are again “in season” with less than a year before the 2019 midterm elections.
Sarmiento said policemen and soldiers who will be deployed to Samar should not have relatives who are running for public office in the 2019 midterm polls.
“We definitely welcome more security forces assigned in the province but I would also suggest a thorough vetting and background check for those who will be assigned to secure us. Baka naman yung mga i-assign sa amin eh mayroon palang mga kamag-anak, kaibigan o kakilala na sinusuportahan,” he said.
Upon his request in 2016, a provincial PNP-AFP task force called Joint Task Force CAGASMAS (Calbayog, Gandara, San Jorge, Matuguinao and Sta. Margarita) was created purposely to neutralize PAGs and hired guns in the area.
House Majority Leader and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr. also earlier expressed support to the President’s order, believing that “it was based on verified information which came into his possession which, for security reasons, cannot be declassified.”
He said the public and the police and military “should be mindful of the clear language of Section 4 of the order that civil or political rights are not suspended and all the constitutional rights of every individual shall be respected.”
Progressive lawmakers earlier warned that MO 32 could be a prelude to a nationwide martial law declaration.