MANILA — Top police and military officials on Tuesday assured that all efforts are being made to ensure that their forces would remain non-partisan in next year’s mid-term polls.
“Uniformed personnel are barred from being partisan. That’s why on our part, we initiated a reshuffle. If you notice, many have been reshuffled, from the station up to the provincial levels,” Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, told reporters after the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Committee (JPSCC) meeting held in Camp Crame on Tuesday.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., meanwhile, said the military has been strict in its drive to keep troops apolitical.
“Our directive stands. They should not make any move supportive of any candidate. In the military, we have distanced ourselves from different officials, even CMO (Civil Military Operations) officials. We have activities that are prohibited during elections),” Galvez said.
In his speech at the change of command of the Philippine Army on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte reminded uniformed personnel to refrain from engaging in partisan politics.
Albayalde, meanwhile, warned police officers of the limitations in providing security in areas where tensions increase during elections.
“We will deploy security forces to candidates, especially those in critical areas, EWAs (election watch list areas). But this is not a reason for them to carry the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia. Remember, only election officers are allowed to do that), not even the AFP is authorized to handle that, unless (there is a) specific request, explicit request coming from Comelec officials,” he said.
Galvez said partisan armed groups and gun-for-hire syndicates remain as the biggest threat to security for next year’s polls.
“So we allow the provision of securities, based on the security assessment that these candidates will be targeted, especially in Mindanao and areas in Abra,” he said.
As deputized agencies of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the AFP and PNP shall take frontline initiatives to carry out aggressive operations against loose firearms and gun-for hire groups, some of which are known to double as private armed groups during elections.
“Normally, we have this thing called JPSCC, which is headed by Comelec. We had a lot of good experience wherein we had peaceful and honest elections. including the recent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. This was the first time that there were no declarations of failure of elections and it was one of the most peaceful. Because we were able to refine good coordination,” he added. (Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)