PNP, AFP prepared for crucial task to ensure peaceful elections

Tasked with ensuring peaceful and orderly national and local elections, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have deployed a total of more than 80,000 personnel ahead of the May 9 electoral exercise.

More than preserving the sanctity of the ballot, the police and military are also being relied on to look after the security of more than 67.42 million voters, as well as 42,490 candidates, who will be participating in the electoral process.

Not only will the two agencies help in securing areas for the election, they have also prepared to augment Commission on Elections (Comelec) personnel in conflict areas where regular electoral workers would be too afraid to operate.

The PNP has already submitted a list of 114 cities and municipalities which are under the red category, or areas of grave concern.

And to prepare its personnel for possible election duties in these “red” areas, 988 policemen recently underwent a refresher course on the duties of Board of Election (BOE) inspectors. They will be placed on standby, ready to replace teacher-BOEs, who might fail to appear or would have to abandon their posts on election day due to security concerns.

The AFP has also trained 2,000 of its own personnel for the same tasks should there be a need to tap them.

Both the police and military have also raised their levels of alertness, ready to intervene in clashes between opposing political groups, or ensure that no terrorist or rebel attacks are launched to disrupt the electoral process.

According to National Security Trask Force on National and Local Elections Deputy Director Maj. Gen. Valeriano de Leon, the PNP has mobilized Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) units to ensure peace and security in Monday’s polls.

“There are reports and information that there are groups and individuals who will try to disrupt the outcome of the elections. We are preparing for this,” he said on April 29.

AFP Spokesperson Col. Ramon Zagala said AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Andres Centino has already issued a directive to unified commands to make sure that no violence will break out in the 15 cities and 105 towns that are under the “red” category.

“Our forces have been tasked to guard them, and we have already allocated an adequate number of forces,” he said.

Much of the focus has been on private armed goons, or PAGs, which are expected to be tapped by unscrupulous politicians to do their so-called “dirty works” like harassment of opponents, extortion activities, or even assassinations.

And to further underscore the need to keep the police neutral during the elections, the PNP has reassigned almost 2,000 commanders and policemen who have relatives running for local posts in the areas they were assigned.

Chiefs of police and field commanders, who have been in their posts for more than two years, have also been assigned to other places to avoid any untoward incident that could be linked with the police officials’ familiarity with local candidates.

Loose guns have also become a major target for law enforcement ever since the gun ban started to be implemented on January 9, 2022. There are 664,480 firearms with expired licenses as of the second quarter of 2021 that are considered as loose guns.

Guns in the hands of the wrong people lead to intimidation, sabotage, and other election-related violence.

As of its latest count of confiscated loose firearms, the PNP said it has confiscated 2,813 firearms as of May 1, 2022, and has arrested 2,934 gun ban violators.