PNP on alert for election ‘zombies,’ loose guns, private armies
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police (PNP) is bracing itself for possible “zombie” attacks in the coming 2013 midterm elections.
The PNP, however, was not referring to the fictional flesh-eating corpses, but to inmates allowed by corrupt jail officials to leave the prison facilities and carry out hit jobs for unscrupulous politicians.
In a statement, PNP Director General Alan Purisima said he had ordered all police units nationwide to coordinate with prison authorities in conducting “judicial audit” of provincial jails.
“The judicial audit of provincial jails… is aimed at preventing the repeat of incidents in the past wherein inmates were being tasked to do the ‘dirty jobs’ for local politicians, like assassination of political rivals and fund-raising through robbery,” Purisima said.
While rumors about the practice had long circulated in the media, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed the existence of “zombies” after the infamous out-of-prison caper of former Batangas Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste, a homicide convict, from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City in 2011.
On Aug. 15, convicted murderer Rommel Laciste escaped from the tightly guarded NBP, a few hours after road rage killer Rolito Go was reportedly taken by unidentified men from the state penitentiary.
When he was recaptured in Isabela province almost two weeks later, Laciste told authorities that somebody had helped him escape from the NBP and hired him to assassinate a lumber dealer and a businesswoman in Isabela.
Besides checking the status of inmates, Purisima said the PNP would also conduct intensified checkpoint operations, reshuffle of police personnel and meetings with community leaders as part of their pro-active security measures for the May 2013 elections.
The PNP chief also directed the recall of police escorts of politicians and the sustained police operations against wanted persons and loose firearms.
“Our main objective is to make the Filipino people feel safe as they go out and choose their next leaders and make sure that it is really the sovereign will of the people that is reflected in the election results,” he said.
Purisima, also the vice chair of the National Committee SAFE (Secure and Fair Elections) 2013, said the PNP would launch “preemptive strikes” against 60 active private armed groups nationwide while keeping a close watch on 47 other groups.
He said the police would continue its house-to-house campaign to account for a total of 552,338 firearms with expired licenses and about 25,000 guns which had never been registered with the PNP.
Purisima went to Nueva Ecija police provincial office in Cabanatuan City on Sunday and met with the commanders of the special PNP task groups in seven provinces in northern Luzon which were tagged as election hotspots.
“I want to personally check and assess what have been so far accomplished by the task group commanders especially in accounting for loose firearms and partisan armed groups,” he said.
He instructed the special PNP task group commanders in Abra, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, and Nueva Ecija to identify security plans, which have failed and would have to be adjusted.
The police commanders were also told to determine “successful security plans which other task group commanders could adopt in their respective provincial areas” and “make an honest assessment” of their security preparations.
“The (PNP) has long been mapping out the best election security campaign plan to ensure the peaceful and credible conduct of the midterm elections in 2013. It is necessary at this point to conduct an assessment on what is going on in the ground,” Purisima said.
“The early bird, they say, catches the worms and in our case, we believe that through the early implementation of our election security campaign plan, we will be able to catch all the potential troublemakers whom we consider as major threat to the untrammeled exercise of the democratic rights of the Filipino people.”