The Philippine National Police yesterday dispatched more than 2,300 personnel in 32 towns and cities of Negros Occidental, including Bacolod City, with the concentration of security forces in five towns, where sightings of New People’s Army forces have been noted and murder and arson incidents had taken place.
In simultaneous send-off ceremonies held yesterday at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. and the Bacolod City Police Office headquarters, police personnel were reminded by Provincial Comelec Supervisor Jessie Suarez, Senior Supts. Rodolfo Castil and Francisco Ebreo to strictly observe neutrality during the May 14 synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
“Don’t compromise your independence and your being the protector of democracy”, Suarez told the 1,811 policemen of Negros Occidental, during the send-off ceremony held at Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City.
The municipalities of Toboso and Calatrava, Moises Padilla, Isabela and Salvador Benedicto in Negos Occidental have been prioritized in the deployment of police personnel.
In the past several days, suspected New People’s Army rebels staged an ambush in Toboso, that resulted in the killing of a civilian, as well as the burning of a truck loaded with fertilizer in Moises Padilla on Thursday.
There are 80 barangays in Negros Occidental categorized by the police as probable poll hotspots, while there are none in Bacolod City, police records show.
Castil also reminded policemen yesterday not to be complacent with their security, while performing election duties, as he has noted an apparent upsurge of violent NPA activities.
Aside from maintaining neutrality in the election, Castil also stressed the need for utmost respect for human rights, strict adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures, and for the men to pray for safe and peaceful elections.
The Police Regional Office 6 also re-assigned temporarily 432 police personnel, including those in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City, to other assignments, noting that they have relatives who are candidates in the May 14 elections in their areas.
Senior Inspector Armilyn Vargas, BCPO Public Information Officer, said yesterday that 517 police personnel should report to their respective posts starting Sunday.
The 517 BCPO personnel were also beefed up by 84 personnel of the Bureau of Fire Protection, and 585 from the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office and other rescue groups.
During the send-off ceremony at Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City, Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, regional police director of Western Visayas, also distributed 30 police vehicles, with five given to BCPO and two to the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office.
Vargas, on the other hand, said, the resources to be used to secure the BSKE, such as the 31 mobile patrol cars, seven fire trucks, 10 ambulances, 59 motorcycles, 54 handheld radios, and 12 base radios were also sent off yesterday.
Vargas said the BCPO also augmented their 80 police officers at Police Regional Office 6, that also assigned them to different areas in Negros Occidental.
Although Bacolod has no election hotspots, Vargas said the Commission on Election anticipates crowded polling precincts in the city during election day.
Anticipating the election to be more personal and intense, Binag said “This is the chance for the police to show competence, professionalism and dedication to duty”.
Of the 133 hotspots in Western Visayas, 36 barangays categorized as yellow areas, where presence of armed groups and intense political rivalry has been noted, 91 under orange areas, where there is presence of communist rebels and criminal gangs, and six barangays under red areas, where there are intense political rivalries, presence of NPA, armed groups and criminal gangs.*GPB/SGG
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