No peace guarantee in Masbate polls–PNPBy Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Inquirer Southern Luzon
MASBATE CITY—How do you stop election-related violence in a province notorious for it?
There is no guarantee, said Masbate’s top police officer, despite the nearly 3,000 police officers and soldiers who have been deployed to ensure the safe and peaceful conduct of election in the province tagged as an election hot spot by authorities.
“We are hoping for the best but bracing for the worst,” Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit said.
One of the tasks of every policeman and Army soldier in Masbate is to secure the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the May 13 automated polls.
Olitoquit said the police could not be visible in all the precincts but would cover every area and be available whenever a situation requires it. Masbate has 3,153 precincts and a voting population of 472,624.
Masbate is in the Commission on Elections’ list of hot spots due to its history of political violence, presence of partisan armed groups, proliferation of loose or unlicensed firearms and hotly contested races.
Olitoquit said it would be almost impossible to detail lawmen in the coastal village of Milagros town and in the hinterlands of the municipalities of Palanas and Dimasalang. But he added that police visibility would be maximized.
At least two police officers would secure every precinct and at least 16 more would secure a village.
Around 2,000 police officers are deployed in Masbate, including those who are organic to the provincial Philippine National Police and the members of Special Task Force Masbate (STF Masbate), and an augmentation force.
The STF Masbate is composed of joint police and military personnel going after fugitives, guns for hire and owners of loose guns in the province.
Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division based in Pili, Camarines Sur, on Saturday said 130 more soldiers were sent to Masbate aside from the 500 already there.
The soldiers will provide perimeter protection to all polling places, according to Lt. Col. Julian Pacatan, commander of the 9th Infantry Battalion based in Milagros town.—With Inquirer Research