By Aaron Recuenco
Some 200,000 policemen and soldiers will be tapped to secure the May 13 midterm elections, with thousands more force multipliers expected to link up with security forces to ensure peaceful and credible conduct of the polls.
General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said that 75 percent to 80 percent of the 195,000-strong police force would be deployed in polling precincts and other areas that need police presence while the military is expected to augment the police force with more or less 40,000 soldiers.
“With regard to the peace and order and guarding of different polling centers, it is the Philippine National Police,” said Albayalde on the arrangement of the deployment.
“But then it was agreed that in critical areas especially those polling centers with serious security issues, there will be deployment of quick reaction teams from the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
Yesterday, top police, military and Commission and Elections officials met at Camp Aguinaldo to discuss election security updates and proposed adjustments under the National Joint Security Coordination Center or NJSCC.
“Since October 2018, we have been convening to explore avenues for better cooperation and coordination among the three agencies. We are also continuously briefing each other in our internal security operations and the challenges we have to deal with,” said General Benjamin Madrigal, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“We are hoping for a smooth flow in our electoral process and that all our plans and coordination in the NJSCC are followed. Our troops on the ground are strategically deployed in different areas and are always on the lookout for any criminal and terrorist groups and individuals who may pose a threat to our citizens,” he added.
Part of the security measures, according to Madrigal, is the conduct of aggressive operations against various threat groups especially in areas listed as election hotspots.
Based on the recent security assessment, there are a total of 936 election hotspots across the country for the midterm elections.
Of the figure, 540 of them are categorized as Red areas or with serious security threats.
Cotabato City and Daraga town of Albay were earlier placed under the control of the Comelec due to New Year’s Eve bombing and the killing of a partylist representative running as mayor of Daraga.
Madrigal said they are also helping in the implementation of the gun ban as well as the operation against suspected private goons of erring politicians.
For his part, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abbas said they are also making preparations as well through regular meetings with his election officials in the provinces.
He said he is satisfied with the security preparations of the police and the military: “napakaganda yung security assessment ng PNP and AFP, manageable yung kanilang findings as to the security in relations to the elections.”