PARTISAN armed groups and guns-for-hire including some members of the New People’s Army yesterday were tagged by both Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Carlito G. Galvez Jr. as the biggest threat to the holding of peaceful, orderly and credible 2019 mid-term elections.
“Ang nakikita namin yung political armed grups at gun-for-hire in order to eliminate the opposition. That’s why we allow security. Based on our assessment, these candidates need security lalo na yung taga-Mindanao, mga taga-Abra and other identified election watchlist areas,” said Gen. Galvez when asked by the Journal Group which group poses a major threat to the 2019 polls.
The country’s top cop said that since last August, their intensified nationwide crackdown against gun-for-hire syndicates and private armed groups has already resulted in the neutralization of 82 known guns-for-hire, 30 of them included in the PNP list and the seizure of 35 assorted firearms.
Gen. Albayalde said that they have likewise neutralized 47 Partisan Armed Group members, eight of them in the government list and confiscated 19 various high-powered firearms from the suspects.
He said that focused intelligence operations are now being directed against more or less 77 active PAGS with 2,071 members believed armed with an estimated 1,582 firearms. A large majority of these active PAGs operate in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“We are also monitoring the activities of 217 other groups that have the potential of being utilized as PAGs by some politicians,” he said.
Gen. Albayalde said that this early, they have organized their Joint Peace and Security Consultative Committee to address threats to the mid-term elections next year including the collection by the NPA of so-called revolutionary tax or permit-to-campaign-fees from candidates venturing into their territories.
“That’s why we have this JPSCC as early as now in order to address these activities of the CPP/NPA/NDF,” the PNP chief said.
Gen. Galvez expressed belief that the AFP and the PNP can effectively ensure the holding of a peaceful polls next year. “Normally during elections, we have the JPSCC headed by the Comelec. We have a lot of experience wherein we have a very peaceful and honest elections, including the recent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections na for the first time, walang nag-declare na failure of elections. And we were able to refine coordination and maganda yung coordination namin ni Chief,PNP kasi pareho kaming Charlie (Company) sa PMA. Yan ang talagang kagandahan. We have also personal friendship since we were in PMA,” the APF chief said.
TO REMAIN APOLITICAL
The two top security officials vowed to fully adhere to President Duterte’s instruction for them to remain apolitical and see to it that their men won’t be allowed to be used in any partisan politicking activities except to secure polling precincts, campaign rallies and the community.
“Ever since naman bawal sa amin ang maging partisan, even sa AFP. Bawal na bawal sa uniformed service ang kumiling kanino mang partido, bawal na bawal po yan. That’s why on our part, we initiated a reshuffle, kung makikita nyo marami nang na reshuffle, sa station up to the provincial level,” Gen. Albayalde said.
The PNP chief said that police basically are involved in the maintenance of peace and order in the locality during every election although the AFP plays a much bigger role in keeping the peace in conflict areas specifically in Mindanao.
“Kung yung mga pulis na may makita tayo na nagpa-participate sa ganyan (partisan politicking activities), get their names and get pictures and we will handle them accordingly. They will be charged accordingly,” he assured.
Gen. Albayalde said that they will be providing security to different candidates particularly in critical areas. “But remember, hindi ito dahilan na sila mismo ang magbubuhat ng ballot boxes at ano pang mga election paraphernalia. Remember ang pwede lang pong gumalaw nyan ay ang election officers. Not even the AFP ay authorized maghawak nyan not unless may specific request, explicit request coming from Comelec officials,” Gen. Albayalde said.
For his part, Gen. Galvez said that they are known for their non-partisanship. “We are apolitical talaga po ever since kaya mini-maintain po natin yung non-partisanship. Ang nakikita po naming problema ay yung sa CAFGU,” he said.
CAFGU members in the past had been used as private armies by rogue politicians in the countryside. However, Gen. Galvez said they already have strategies in mind to counter this previous practice including rotating the militiamen just like what the PNP has been doing.
“Maliwanang ang directive natin. They should not make any move that would really tend to support any candidate. Sa military we have established distance with the different officials, even Civil-Military Operations or CMO officials, may mga activities kami na prohibited during election,” he said.