More military, cops getting ready to go to Samar to face ‘lawless violence’
TACLOBAN CITY – Military and police authorities in Eastern Visayas are preparing for the deployment of additional personnel to Samar in compliance with a directive issued by Malacañang to address “lawless violence” in the province.
Officials of both security agencies assured the people of Samar that their troops would respect the rights of the civilians.
Senior Supt. Arnel Arcenas, Police Regional Office in Eastern Visayas (PRO-8) assistant regional director, said they were putting a high premium on human rights.
“Human rights will serve as our guide in the implementation and enforcement of our laws. We don’t’ oppose in (respecting) human rights,” Arcenas said in an interview Monday.
Major General Raul Farnacio, commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, Samar, echoed Arcenas’ statement.
“To the general public, rest assured that your Army will strictly adhere to the rules and procedures set forth by higher headquarters in the conduct of internal security operations in Eastern Visayas,” he said.
President Duterte issued Memorandum Circular 32 through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, calling for the deployment of soldiers and police in Samar as well as in Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and the Bicol Region to stop the existence of lawless violence in these areas.
Arcenas said they had not received a clear directive as to where they would get the additional 100 policemen who would be deployed in Samar.
“It could be from the national headquarters or from the Regional Mobile Force,” he said.
He also said the existence of lawless violence in Samar might have triggered the issuance of the President’s memorandum.
Arcenas said such information was not only validated by the police and the Army but also by other government security agencies like the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Nica).
Captain Francis Agno, spokesperson of the 8th ID, said that as part of the augmentation, two Army battalions of the division earlier deployed to Mindanao would return to the region.
These are the 34IB and 19IB which were assigned to Midsayap, North Cotabato and Arakan, also in North Cotabato where they were sent to fight terrorist groups.
But Agno said they had yet to receive when these Army battalions would be returned to Eastern Visayas.
Human rights groups have expressed fears that the additional troops in Samar, where members of the New People’s Army and private armed groups operate, might result in human rights abuses.
The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), said the move could only sow fear among the people.
“The militaristic approach has proven to be a deadly approach and has never delivered genuine welfare for the people. It could sow fear and reap more unrest,” Rev. Irma Balaba of PCPR said in a statement.
Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, a human rights group, also said this could also result in harassment, displacement of people, and “red-tagging.”
“It will only lead to more community encampments, extrajudicial killings, bombings, red-tagging, harassments, and other human rights violations.
Bur Mayor Melissa de la Cruz of Matuguinao, Samar, welcomed the deployment of additional forces in Samar.
“Perhaps, this will help address the problem in Samar, to include our town,” she said.
The town has been considered a hotspot during the conduct of elections due to the presence of an alleged private armed group and the NPA.
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