LAW ENFORCEMENT BODIES, COMELEC GEAR UP FOR 2019 POLLS
MANILA — Officials of the police, military and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday held the first in a series of conferences that would ensure the smooth conduct of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite and the midterm elections.
“We held today (Thursday) a tri-agency conference among the Commission on Elections, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to fine-tune all coordination, security plans and preparations to proactively respond to the mission at hand to provide security to the holding of the forthcoming regional plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law; and to ensure peaceful, orderly, and fair 2019 midterm elections in May through the Joint Security Coordinating Center (JSCC),” PNP Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, told reporters.
The first BOL plebiscite that will be held on January 21 will cover the entire Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and the cities of Isabela and Cotabato, while the second, to be held on February 6, will cover the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.
Albayalde said they also tackled security preparations, particularly the deployment of personnel to intensify intelligence-driven law enforcement operations; and strengthened police-community partnership to preclude violence and ensure order in the forthcoming mid-term polls.
“We held lengthy discussions on the different electoral processes that will take place this month and in May this year, our continuing efforts against loose and undocumented firearms in accordance with Republic Act No. 10591 and the nationwide gunban imposed by Comelec that will take effect on January 13 until June 12, 2019,” he said.
“Also discussed is the status of the ongoing campaign against Private Armed Groups; and proactive efforts to preempt possible outbreak of violence as a result of intense political rivalry among parties and candidates,” he added.
Albayalde also said they convened the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Committee (JPSCC) to further synergize respective police and military strategies into a national campaign that will defeat all threat groups and criminal elements, ensure security and maintain public safety to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development.
The PNP chief noted that this will be formalized through the AFP-PNP Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” 2018-2022 to be signed by him and AFP Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal.
“We are more than ready so we made this final coordinating conference. Although we will still hold a series of coordinating conference before, during and after the conduct of the plebiscite this January and also before, during and after the conduct of the local and national elections in May. Our JSCC conferences and JPSCC conference will be held continuously,” Albayalde said when asked if they are fully prepared for the midterm elections.
Madrigal, meanwhile, said that in the next few days, he and Albayalde will be going around their units to supervise, especially the send-off of the troops for the BOL plebiscite.
He said there are troops on standby to augment the 10,400 troops that were already deployed in the areas covered by the plebiscite.
“We have laid down all security measures, especially in the case of Mindanao. We know that the region is under martial law and we have added security measures and intelligence monitoring for the monitoring of these (threat) groups,” Madrigal told reporters.
He, however, assured that members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) will not be used during the coming elections.
“We assure you that the CAFGUs under the operational control of our AFP commanders, although they are deployed locally, they are ably led by our cadre commanders and of course by the commanders on the ground. And we make sure that if there are reports regarding some CAFGUs that are being utilized, we will act and make sure that they will be properly punished but what we are saying is the CAFGUs, in general, are actually under our supervision and we will ensure that they will be non-partisan and apolitical in this exercise,” the AFP chief stressed.
Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas, meanwhile, said he is hoping for the peaceful conduct of the plebiscite despite the volatile security situation, especially in Cotabato City.
“With the help of the AFP and the PNP, we will do everything to make the plebiscite and the midterm elections peaceful and credible,” the poll body chief said.
Albayalde said the Joint Campaign Plan “Kapanatagan” is anchored on the national strategic guidance defined in the National Vision, National Security Policy, Philippine Development Plan, National Peace and Development Agenda, and the DND Guidance and Policy Thrusts, Joint Planning Guidance 01-2018.
“This is a medium-term broad plan that shall guide the AFP and PNP in providing guidelines and delineation of authority while performing their mandated tasks to promote peace, ensure security and support the overall development initiatives of the government towards inclusive growth,” he added.
Last October, the AFP and PNP convened the JPSCC to explore all available avenues for better coordination and cooperation in our operations on internal security, anti-criminality, and counter-terrorism under a joint security framework.
“Initially, we identified common ground on security and peace and order challenges that our respective agencies are mandated to confront and address such as the Communist Terrorist Groups; Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups; Private Armed Groups, Criminal Gangs and Other Criminal Elements; and Peace Inclined Armed Groups,” Albayalde said.
He said the respective strategic thrusts of the AFP and PNP were thus harmonized into the joint campaign plan, not merely as a product, but a dynamic process to establish greater inter-operability for continuing operations to address security concerns within their respective areas of concern, including all other productive endeavors.
Under the plan, the police shall support the military in combat operations involving the suppression of insurgency and other serious threats to national security.
The PNP shall take the lead role in law enforcement operations against Criminal Syndicates and Private Armed Groups, with the active support of the AFP. (PNA)