AMID their preparations to ensure a peaceful and honest conduct of the 2022 national and local elections, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar yesterday said he has ordered all his field commanders to intensify their measures to preempt threats from the New People’s Army (NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other ISIS-inspired lawless elements in the countryside.
He said their massive security preparations will come vis-à-vis with their enhanced partnership with the Armed Forces, local government units and the community which he said will be serving as their ‘eyes and ears’ in fighting criminality, insurgency and terror.
“Inatasan ko na ang lahat ng chiefs of police at unit commanders, especially in areas with the presence of large threat groups na maging alerto at palakasin ang kanilang defense plan sa mga police station at sa mga pulis na nagsasagawa ng responde at pag-patrolya,” Gen. Eleazar said.
He issued the directive after a policeman was wounded after being shot by still unidentified gunmen in Maimbung, Suu last week. The victim and his colleagues were on their way to their station when ambushed by the suspects..
In Cordillera region, security troops were placed on full alert amid possible retaliatory attacks from the NPA which have suffered a series of setbacks at the hands of the police and the military.
Cordillera Police Regional Office director, Brigadier Gen. Ronald O. Lee said that around 11 a.m. last October 2,, two members of the Sadanga Municipal Police Station in Mountain Province were wounded by an improvised explosive device in Mount Ungyod in Barangay Betwagan.
The officers were identified as Senior Master Sergeants William Maganon and Ruben Aronchay.
Brig. Gen. Lee said that on Tuesday last week, two suspected NPA guerrillas were killed in a gunbattle with patrolling members of the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion in Bgy. Mainit in Bontoc municipality.
The official said the bodies of the two were recovered at the site along with one M-14 rifle with five magazines containing 70 rounds of live ammunition, three AK-47 magazines with 20 bullets, nine IEDs, two rifle grenades, two hand grenades, IED components including blasting caps, a detonating switch and rolls of wire.
The soldiers led by 1Lieutenant Fritz Entoma also found one USB flash drive, two commercial radios, a pocket radio, a battery tester and a power bank at the scene of the clash which took place 8:10 a.m. last September 28.
Gen. Eleazar said they are not discounting the possibility that some groups would step up the attacks on government forces not only to get the service firearms of policemen but also to project that they remain strong in certain areas.
This would be used by the threat groups as a leverage for their extortion activities, especially on candidates.
“Maigting ang ating kampanya laban sa mga loose firearms at hindi natin inaalis ang posibilidad na pag-initan ang aming mga armas pati na rin ang posibilidad na pag-atake sa aming hanay upang ipakita na malakas pa rin ang kanilang puwersa upang gawing dahilan ng extortion sa mga kandidato sa panahon ng kampanya,”he said.
Gen. Eleazar also asked the cooperation from the public to report to authorities if they notice some suspicious individuals who could only threat public safety.
Aside from the hard work of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the PNP chief said the peaceful and orderly filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COC) and Certificates of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) from October 1-8 could be attributed to the preparations made by the police force and other law enforcement agencies.
“The Philippine National Police did not receive any significant incident that affected the eight-day filing of COC and CONA across the country. We attribute this to the preparations made by our unit commanders and the hard work of our personnel on the ground,” Gen. Eleazar said.
While there were incidents reported in some parts of the country, the PNP chief said they were not significant and that local police forces were able to properly address them.
He cited an incident of direct assault, alarm and scandal and malicious mischief last Thursday inside the Comelec office in Taraka, Lanao del Sur which involved one Johari Cumadog who had filed his COC for Sangguniang Bayan member.
Cumadog, the local police said caused a commotion when he allegedly smashed chairs and harassed some local Comelec officials until officers on duty were able to subdue him and brought him to the local police station for filing of appropriate criminal charges.
Gen. Eleazar said two men were also arrested for violation of the gun ban imposed by the PNP from September 30 until 7 a.m. of October 9. He said that businessman Cesar Bukid was apprehended in Lucena City for possession of a caliber .45 pistol while Glenn Montarde was caught with a 9mm pistol by policemen manning a checkpoint in Marikina City.
The PNP chief also noted that some supporters of political aspirants failed to follow the health and safety protocols being enforced during the filing of candidacies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gen. Eleazar lamented that those who eye national and local government positions were not able to impose to their supporters the need to observe the minimum health standards due to the unusual situation the country is facing.
“Nakakalungkot lamang na sa kabila ng ating paulit-ulit na pakiusap ay marami pa rin sa ating mga kababayan ang hindi sumunod sa mga patakaran ng Comelec at ng pamahalaan tungkol sa public health safety at nakakalungkot din na tila hinayaan ito ng mga sinusuportahan nilang mga kandidato,” he said.
“Lagi nating naririnig ang sigaw ng pagbabago tuwing halalan subalit kahit sino ang ihalal nating mga lider ay walang mangyayari dahil ang tunay na pagbabago ay nagmumula sa ating mga sarili at ito ay nag-uumpisa sa simpleng disiplina at pagsunod sa mga patakaran na para naman sa kapakanan ng bawat isa,” he added.
Gen. Eleazar commended and expressed gratitude to all police officers who have made the beginning of the electoral process a success and for sticking to observing maximum tolerance against those who disobey the guidelines set by the poll body and other stakeholders.
“But I would like to congratulate and extend my sincerest appreciation to the dedication and display of maximum tolerance of our men on the ground to make sure that we achieve our goal, and that is to make this electoral process peaceful and orderly. Saludo ako sa inyo!,” he said.