Lorenzana: Troop deployment to ensure peaceful polls
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said he did not see the coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to the police and the military to suppress and prevent lawless violence in parts of the Visayas and the Bicol region expanding to include other areas.
In a radio interview on Monday, Lorenzana said the areas covered by Memorandum Order No. 32 (MO 32) like the provinces of Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and the Bicol region were “those with dense Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) presence.”
But he said the President had no plan to declare martial law nationwide.
“Didn’t they hear the President publicly say he will not declare martial law nationwide?” Lorenzana said.
He said martial law was declared in Mindanao because the security situation there was “problematic” and that it may be extended for a longer period.
“MO 32 focuses on areas where the communist terrorists thrive, where they are active in burning down construction equipment and extorting from businessmen,” he said.
While the police and military saw a possible escalation of attacks by the CPP-NPA, particularly in the run-up to next year’s midterm elections, it was unnecessary to expand the areas covered by the order, he said.
According to him, the NPA will heighten its offensive to project that it remains a potent, united force despite the mass surrender of its members.
He said MO 32 would help “level the playing field” in the coming elections, claiming that the CPP-NPA demanded payment of cash before allowing candidates to enter and campaign in an area.
“This (MO 32) is our way to ensure the election period is peaceful, orderly and fair,” he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson earlier said the deployment of more security personnel to the four areas was “unnecessary.”
But Lorenzana said: “We welcome anything that will improve our [security] operations to make places and areas peaceful … There is nothing to be concerned about over MO 32.”
In Eastern Visayas, military and police officials allayed fears that the deployment of troops might result in human rights abuses.
“Human rights will serve as our guide in the implementation and enforcement of our laws. We don’t oppose in [respecting] human rights,” said Senior Supt. Arnel Arcenas, assistant regional police director.
Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City, also said the Army would “strictly adhere to the rules and procedures set by higher headquarters in the conduct of internal security operations” in the region.
As part of the augmentation, two Army battalions of the division earlier deployed to Mindanao would return to the region. —Reports from Jeannette Andrade and Joey Gabieta
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