Election hotspot Masbate province has all the eyes and ears of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the region.
After sending 700 policemen last week to the province under the regional task force, a second batch of 100 officers will beef up police presence in the island next month.
The new batch will come from the elite Special Action Force (SAF) commandos from the Cordillera Administrative Region but now under a test mission in the province of Compostela Valley in Mindanao.
PNP-Bicol regional director Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez confirmed these move despite the presence of 1,000 regular policemen of the Masbate Provincial Police Office.
On the part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 100 more soldiers are reassigned to Masbate as confirmed by Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya.
Masbate province has been identified by the Commission on Elections as an area of concern in the region, with a history of election-related violence compounded with the presence of New People’s Army (NPA) and private armed groups (PAGs).
Visaya warned politicians employing communist insurgents as PAGs that they will be dealt with accordingly if found cuddling and giving money and arms to government enemies.
The Solcom commander’s warning came after local mayors in Masbate revealed in a dialogue here on Tuesday that powerful politicians in the province are employing NPA members, former and active soldiers, policemen from Mindanao as PAGs.
Local mayors also said that some politicians even swapped goons with their counterparts in Samar and Sorsogon provinces to threaten and kill people.
The mayors’ expose came out during the first joint AFP-PNP-Special Task Force Masbate dialogue with reelectionists and candidates running for various posts held at Camp Bonny Serrano here.
The dialogue aimed to address peace and security issues in the province as well as get the commitment of the provincial, city and municipal chief executives and candidates to ensure safe, clean, honest and peaceful elections here.
The AFP and the PNP initiated the joint dialogue with the candidates to seek commitment from them for safe, fair, honest and peaceful elections in May. (from PNA report)