AFP may help with election security 'on a case to case basis' — Lorenzana

Published September 29, 2021, 6:49 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) may be tapped to enforce security for the coming national and local elections in May 2022 but it would be on a case to case basis and not nationwide, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday, September 29.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (File photo by MANILA BULLETIN)

Lorenzana emphasized though that the job of securing the election is the responsibility of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“However, if situations become chaotic or the integrity of the polls is endangered and the capacity of the PNP is overwhelmed, the AFP will assist the PNP in restoring order,” he said in a statement.

“In fact, this is automatic based on past practices between the two services and doesn’t necessarily need a directive from the President. It’s not nationwide though but on a case to case basis locally,” he added.

The Defense Chief was reacting to the pronouncement of President Duterte last week that he may be forced to use the military just to ensure the “peaceful and violence-free conduct” of the polls next year.

“Either we have an election that is free or I will use the military to see the election is free,” he was quoted as saying last Friday at the inauguration of the new Sultan Kudarat Provincial hospital.

The Commander-in-Chief’s statement gathered mixed reactions from various stakeholders. Vice President Leni Robredo said Duterte should not “threaten” the Filipinos by using the military in the elections.

“Huwag sana gamitin ang militar para takutin ang mamamayan kasi ang militar kakampi natin ‘yan (The military should not be used to threaten the public because they are our allies),” she said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, had said that it is the responsibility of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to deputize the AFP and PNP so they can be sent to election hotspots.

Senator Richard Gordon, who has been criticized by the President over the Senate’s investigation on the alleged anomaly in the procurement of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) supplies, said he was “alarmed” by the statement.

But Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said Duterte could have only thought of using the military and to act as support forces to the police in maintaing the peace and order in the upcoming elections.