THE Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership headed by General Dionardo B. Carlos has called anew on all candidates to fully coordinate their movement with the local police so that adequate security measures to protect them, their campaign team and their supporters can be implemented.
Apart from that, informing the local police ahead of a campaign rally or a meeting with other people will help ensure peace and order and plan for contingencies in the event of campaign motorcades known for triggering huge traffic jams.
Gen. Carlos made the renewed call in the wake of an incident in Quezon, Bukidnon last week wherein presidential candidate Leodegario ‘Ka Leody’ de Guzman was unhurt in a shooting incident which marred his meeting with indigenous people.
Although President Duterte has ordered the PNP to see to it that the so-called ‘Alunan Doctrine’ will be fully implemented to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful May 9 national and local elections, Gen. Carlos said they can always provide area security to candidates during their campaign sorties.
According to the PNP chief, police are always ready to provide area security to candidates and their supporters once they are informed of his/her arrival in a certain area specifically in identified ‘high-risk areas’ or those with known considerable presence of armed threat groups and other lawless elements and history of political violence.
What the Omnibus Election Code prohibits, he explained is the employment of armed bodyguards without the certificate of authority and gun ban exemption from the Commission on Elections.
The Alunan doctrine limits the number of a politician’s armed guards. It considers two or more armed men as a private army that should be disarmed by the government.
Gen. Carlos said he has directed all 17 Police Regional Office directors to fully implement the doctrine introduced by Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III when he was appointed by then President Fidel V. Ramos to head the Department of Interior and Local Government.
During Alunan’s time, the PNP mounted an intensified Oplan: Paglalansag which focused on neutralizing private armed groups and accounting for thousands of loose firearms in the country, including those being used by political warlords and their men.
The Police Regional Office 10 (PRO10) headed by Brigadier Gen. Benjamin C. Acorda Jr. has launched a thorough investigation into the shooting incident in Bukidnon although he also reminded candidates and their organizers about the importance of the thing called coordination.
“We are asking candidates and their organizers to coordinate with us so that we could perform our mandate on providing security,” the Northern Mindanao police director said.
Security guards who were accused of involvement in the shooting incident have claimed self-defense when they opened fire in the area.
According to PNP spokesperson, Colonel Jean Fajardo, the PRO10 has identified at least three persons of interest’ who may be facing criminal charges in connection with the shooting which broke out as de Guzman was meeting with local tribesmen who were claiming they have become victims of land-grabbing.
Once found to have committed lapses in the performance of their duties, the security guards may also be stripped of their licenses.
According to Fajardo, the PRO10 investigation showed that about 10-20 indigenous people allegedly made a ‘surreptitious entry’ into the pineapple plantation in Barangay San Jose prompting security guards to fire shots. The guards were hired by the plantation owners to guard the site since the land dispute case is still being heard by a local court.
Four people were reported to have been injured as a result of the incident.
The guards claimed the tribesmen were accompanied by some non-IPs who were armed with guns and bolos.
The security guards said they fired warning shots to drive away our indigenous people brothers. And some of them of them also claimed some people who are obviously not members of the tribe have guns,” Fajardo added.
The PNP spokesperson said the guards claimed they merely fired their guns to protect themselves. “Our investigators were told by the security guards they questioned that some of the IPs tried to attack them with bolos while they were driving them away prompting them to defend themselves.
Fajardo said the ‘self-defense claim’ of the security guards are being looked into by the PRO10 leadership.
“But assuming, for the sake of argument that they were defending themselves, we will still look into the issue of whether they are authorized to bear firearms. We all know that we have an ongoing election gun ban,” the official said.
Fajardo said the PRO10 has asked the Comelec’s help in determining if the security guards were issued gun ban exemptions.
The PNP Civil Security Group has also began its own investigation into the possible administrative and criminal liabilities of the guards.
Following the incident, Regional Civil Security Unit personnel seized eight 12-gauge shotguns, two 9mm semi-automatic pistols and a caliber .38 revolver from the security guards. The weapons have been subjected to a ballistic examination to determine which of them were fired during the incident.
However, the PRO10 needs all the help they can get from the group of de Guzman and the IPs as well as the other side to establish the identities of the guards who really fired the shots since it has turned out that some of the guards were wearing face masks during the incident.