PNP ready to deploy more forces to secure special elections in Lanao del Sur

PNP ready to deploy more forces to secure special elections in Lanao del Sur
Photo dated May 13 shows protesters assembled in front of CCP grounds for the Black Friday Protest. Police personnel block their entry to PICC for the COMELEC Canvassing.
Philstar.com / Jazmin Tabuena

MANILA, Philippines — Should the Commission on Elections issue the order, the Philippine National Police said it is staying ready to deploy more troops in politically-troubled areas to ensure the security of special elections to be held on May 24, it said Wednesday. 

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing Wednesday morning, Police Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP spokesperson said that the PNP's focus, for the time being, is the peace and order situation in Lanao del Sur where three towns saw failures of election due to the tension between rival political camps.

"We are confident that because of the constant presence of our PNP and the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] in that area will somehow appease our people there that they will feel safer when they go out and cast their votes," she said in mixed Filipino and English. 

To recall, the Comelec en banc which sits as the National Board of Canvassers decided to postpone the proclamation of winning party-list groups until the certificate of canvass from areas holding special elections are transmitted. 

"The areas are under Comelec control. If the Comelec would require us to add more troops on the ground, then the PNP and the AFP are ready to respond," Fajardo said. 

According to Fajardo, the PNP has not yet received "any serious threats" pertaining to the special elections to be held in Lanao del Sur on May 24.

"We're continuing our intelligence build-up, monitoring, and gathering...to ensure that our people can cast their votes without any fears for their safety and security," she said. 

She added that a number of police officers across the country have also already been pulled out of voting precincts that have already packed up all election-related documents and paraphernalia. 

"For those that [still have] the presence of our Comelec officers and a few election paraphernalia, we won't pull them out just yet," she said in Filipino. 

As of Wednesday morning, the PNP has also recorded and validated 27 election-related incidents including gun ban violations, mauling, and other scandals. Of which: 

  • Four were from the Ilocos region
  • Five were from Central Luzon 
  • One was from Central Visayas
  • Seven were from the Zamboanga Peninsula 
  • One was from Northern Mindanao
  • Three were from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
  • Five were from the Cordillera Administrative Region

Out of the 27, Fajardo said, ten are still under investigation while 12 have been referred to prosecutors' offices and 5 are moving in court. 

On election day itself, Police Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, PNP Deputy Director for Operations insisted that the 15 cases documented at the time were "isolated incidents" since they mostly occurred particularly in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, which were already classified as hotspots of election-related violence. 

But Fajardo asserted that the PNP's assessment was still that the elections were "generally peaceful."

"If we compare the incidents in 2010 and 2016 [with 166 and 133, respectively] some of those cases involve harassment cases pertaining to permit to campaign and permit to win conducted by communist terrorist groups," she said. 

READ: More troops deployed in politically-troubled Lanao del Sur town

PNP claims no attacks on media during elections

In a separate statement issued by the Presidential Task Force on Media Security, the PNP leadership also reported zero election-related incident involving members of the media during the 2022 polls.

The PNP admitted that there were "reported cases" coming from Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Cordillera Administrative Region and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

But the national police went on to claim that "those recorded threats, harassment, stabbing and shooting incidents involving members of the media did not reflect motives in relation to their duties during the election period."

This is the PTFoMS' usual narrative in the wake of violent incidents against members of the press: that the motives of the suspects supposedly had nothing to do with their profession and thus could not be classified as harassment against journalists.

The PNP nevertheless vowed to proceed with probes into these incidents despite claiming that they "fell short [of] the criteria [set for] election-related incidents."

“The creation of Media Vanguards within our organization has created a huge impact in safeguarding our media practitioners who took the role of being our information frontliner this election season,” PNP OIC Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. said.

Since the launching of the Media Vanguards, police stations and units nationwide have activated their desks to accept media-related complaints, verify, and assist in handling these cases.

“The offshoot of this initiative can be observed with the strong relationship between the media industry and law enforcers such as the PNP,” Danao said.

Danao added that given the higher confidence to report on the elections, media practitioners were moved to deliver stories that are accurate, transparent and relevant to the general public.

“It became a tool for the PNP to reach a wider audience with the premise that this vital information can help in increasing the public's awareness of the developments in this election,” Danao said.

READ: PNP to remain at polling precincts until all election materials recovered

Franco Luna 

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