30,000 cops fielded for poll duties nationwide

Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - With only nine days left before the May 13 elections, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will start deploying 30,000 cops to areas where there is a high risk of violence.

PNP Deputy Director General Ager Ontog said 30,000 policemen would be deployed to maintain peace and order before, during and after the elections.

The 12,000 are police trainees who will be partnered with and guided by 18,000 cops performing administrative jobs at the police headquarters. More than 1,800 lawmen are assigned at Camp Crame.

“Most of the 1,800 Camp Crame-based policemen will support the NCRPO (National Capital Regional Police Office) and provinces in Luzon where there is security concern,” Ontog said.

“We have already identified areas where violent incidents are likely to take place and we have advised the regional directors to take the necessary security measures to prevent them,” he added.

Ontog noted that the PNP is closely monitoring Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Abra, La Union, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Cavite and Batangas for security-related concerns. Although there is still no indication of possible source of violent incident in these provinces, the PNP will not leave everything to chance.

“We don’t see possible source of election violence yet, but we have opted to increase the number of policemen in these areas,” Ontog said in Filipino.

The PNP Directorate for Operations (DO) is still in the process of assessing the peace and order situation before raising the level of alert from normal, heightened to full.

“The DO will determine the appropriate alert status but usually full alert status is implemented about a week before the elections, during which the Comelec (Commission on Elections) starts the distribution of PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines and other election paraphernalia,” Ontog said.

In Pampanga, for instance, at least 1,200 cops will be deployed today to 501 polling precincts in the province as the PCOS machines will be delivered, according to senior superintendent Oscar Albayalde, officer-in-charge of Pampanga police provincial office.

Albayalde also said at least two to three combined police and army teams will be assigned to each precinct.

In Western Visayas, 7,342 of the over 9,000 cops in the region will be deployed to guard more than 3,600 polling centers, according to Police Regional Office (PRO) VI director Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, Jr.

Cruz said “two policemen will be assigned to each polling center.” Other personnel will be put on reserve while some will join the quick response forces.

The PRO also vows to guard power transmission lines, communication towers and other vital installations that could affect the elections.

“We cannot be complacent. We will make sure that threat groups, like the rebels and criminals, will be denied of opportunity to disrupt the elections,” Cruz said.

Members of the Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council also met yesterday to finalize the details of troop deployment for the May 13 polls. Two helicopters will be made available for use in Western Visayas.

“We decided to place our air assets in Capiz because there are areas there that would be reached through a two-day walk,” Cruz said.

The PNP security coverage will also be augmented by the strategic deployment of soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Comelec is yet to place areas under its control. Ontog said this means the peace and order situation in the country remains under control.

“As far as the PNP is concerned, we already have laid down all security preparations and perhaps no violence will take place with our early preparations,” Ontog added. – With Ric Sapnu, Jennifer Rendon

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