All security measures are in place to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of the 2022 national and local elections on Monday, May 9.
This was the assurance given by the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Coast Guard as at least 80,000 security personnel were already fielded for poll duties.
This is on top of around 20,000 soldiers, cops, and coast guardians, and education personnel that were turned over to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last week, and thousands more of standby personnel that are ready to be deployed in case the need arises.
“The whole Armed Forces of the Philippines, as a deputized agency of the Comelec, together with the Philippine National Police and Philippine Coast Guard, is committed to our task to ensure that we [will] have a secure, accurate and free elections tomorrow,” General Andres Centino, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said in a pre-election forum of the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) on Sunday, May 8.
Around 67 million voters are expected to troop to the polling precincts to elect a new president, vice president, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and local government officials.
So far, the security sector has not monitored any confirmed security threat although Centino said the AFP has been hearing unvalidated reports of certain groups or individuals who want to disrupt the elections.
“We don’t have confirmed reports but as mentioned, may naririnig na kung anu-ano (we’re hearing claims). But these are not validated reports. Be assured that we are ready whatever or wherever the situation may develop. All our forces are ready for this,” Centino said.
“[There are] no particular group but we know that some groups or individuals may use certain groups. Lalabas lang ‘yan (They will only come out) if there’s an opportunity [because] they are hiding. But we make sure that we are ready for that. We don’t deploy our forces if they are in the area, we go there before they are able to conduct atrocities,” he added.
As this developed, the AFP chief revealed that military personnel from Sulu in Western Mindanao and Davao in Northern Mindanao were flown via C-130 transport aircraft on Sunday to augment the forces in Central Mindanao.
This occurred after a tension-filled attempt of alleged members of the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) in Cotabato on Saturday night to reportedly block the movement and sneak out vote-counting machines while they were being transported from the local Comelec office to the polling centers.
“Mayroong ipinaabot na report na we need additional forces just to make sure walang untoward incident na mangyari (We received a report that we need additional forces there just to make sure there will be no untoward incident),” Centino said.
The AFP was placed on full alert status on Saturday to secure the voting public. Centino reminded all the 42,000-strong soldiers deployed for poll duties all over the country to “always remain non-partisan and neutral.”
Aerial and naval assets of the AFP, PNP, and PCG were also made available to deliver personnel, vote counting machines, SD cards, and other equipment in various polling precincts.
Meanwhile, a liquor ban was implemented by the PNP beginning May 8 to 9, according to PNP OIC Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr.
For PCG Commandant, Admiral Artemio Abu, available watercraft and personnel were also prepared for the safe and secured movement of election personnel.
“Kung saan ang areas na alam namin na magkakaroon ng kailangan na immediate ‘yung movement in the event na magkaroon ng defective na machines and SD cards, nakaready po ang Coast Guard. Nakalagay na po sila strategically (If there are areas that need immediate movement in the event that there are defective machines and SD cards, the Coast Guard stands ready to respond. They are positioned strategically),” said Abu.
The Comelec has identified areas that are under the green, yellow, orange, and red category to determine their level of security concern. A total of 114 cities and municipalities are under the red category which means there are grave concern in these areas.
There were also several areas that are placed under Comelec control due to recent incidents or history of poll-related violence.