CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 May) – Nineteen persons armed with automatic rifles and pistols on board a convoy of two pick-up trucks were arrested in Pagadian City on Monday afternoon by a joint team of Army and police personnel.
Capt. Clint Antipala, public information officer of the 1st Infantry Division said the arrest was supervised by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which acted on a tip from residents on the presence of the armed men in Barangay Danlugan, Pagadian.
“The government troops immediately responded in the area and were able to flag down the two vehicles and immediately apprehended the personalities on board possessing firearms,” Antipala said.
He said the soldiers and policemen seized five M16 rifles, seven Cal .45 pistols, two Cal .357 revolvers, one 9mm pistol, one Cal .38 revolver, one Cal .22 revolver, several assorted ammunition and 17 pieces of bonnet masks.
The arrest came after the Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed some 40,000 troops nationwide to help in the conduct of the May 2013 midterm elections.
Violence has been the mark of elections in parts of the Philippines while vote buying is rampant in many areas.
Over 61 million registered voters are expected to troop to the polling centers on May 13 to vote for 12 senators, congressional district representatives, party-list groups and local government officials.
The Comelec declared the entire Mindanao a “Category Red Election Hotspot” in the run-up to the mid-term elections this month.
Mindanao, which has been placed under martial law since May 23, 2017, comprises 27 provinces, 33 cities, 422 towns and 10,084 barangays. It has a population of 24.1 million as of 2015 and its voting population in the 2016 Presidential polls was 12.6 million, the second vote-richest island in the country (Luzon’s was 30.4 million and Visayas’ was 11.3 million)
AFP public affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said the troops will help the police in ensuring the safety of the voters.
“They will be deployed in areas where extra security is needed like areas of conflict or insurgency,” Detoyato said.
He said the Comelec has tapped the military to transport election paraphernalia or materials like ballot boxes.
The Army and police have set up joint election monitoring command centers in Northern Mindanao to prevent the New People’s Army and other armed groups from terrorizing voters on Election Day.
“We will deny them any chance to conduct atrocities, threaten election officials and personnel or coerce voters,” 4th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Nemesio Gacal said.
Gacal said most of the soldiers and policemen who were deployed had already voted under the supervision of the Comelec.
He said most of the voting was done in military and police camps last week. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)