Army visibility in polling centers high 10 days before election day—official

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 April) — Military personnel in the Davao Region and parts of Southwestern Mindanao (Region 12) will be visible around the vicinity of polling places 10 days before the national mid-term and local elections on May 13, Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) 10th Infantry Division, said Monday.

At a press conference at SM Davao City, he noted that their personnel are “90 percent ready to secure the polling areas.”

In the Davao Region, Bernardo said that final preparations are being refined with lawyer Wilfredo Jay Balisado, Commission on Elections (Comelec) director for Region 11 or the Davao Region.

He said military officials assigned in polling areas should conduct ocular inspections to determine where to strategically deploy the security forces.

In the Davao Region, Bernardo said that high on their priority are the 10 villages considered as election hotspot or watchlist areas by the city police headed by Senior Supt. Ronald Dela Rosa, due to the presence of the New People’s Army rebels.

Dela Rosa earlier identified the elections watchlist areas in the city as barangays Mapula, Lumiad, Pañalum, Malabog and Paradise Embak in Paquibato district; Malamba and Tamugan in Marilog district; and Tambobong, Tawan-tawan, and Carmen in Baguio district.

“If they (Comelec) need more troops, many are available,” Bernardo told reporters.

He said the security forces have to be “proactive and preemptive” in ensuring people’s safety and securing a clean and honest elections.

Bernardo said that AFP and Comelec officials are discussing “innovations” on how to become effective in their roles during election day.

He cited that in cases that election inspectors or officers will seek the presence of military men inside a voting precinct, the use of texting or short messaging system, instead of writing a letter, which according to him takes longer time than texting, is being looked at as one of the innovations.

“Military men are not allowed to be near or inside polling places,” Bernardo said, adding that they should be at least 50 meters away from the precincts.

He said that the military will also talk to the operators of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to make them feel safe, especially those assigned in areas where there are security threats.

Bernardo said that Army troops will be in the vicinity of election watchlist areas and in most polling places for area clearing leading to the final testing and sealing of PCOS machines in the voting centers.

The 10th ID’s area of responsibility covers the whole Davao Region and South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces and six towns in North Cotabato in Region 12 or Soccsksargen Region.

In Region 12, Bernardo said the field operating units are still finalizing their security implementing plans.

He added he was set to visit the area early next week to check the security measures being put in place together with the regional police force. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)