De Lima ‘worries’ of ‘sinister’ goals in sending more troops to provinces
Opposition Senator Leila De Lima on Wednesday raised doubt on the real objective of additional troop deployment to Samar, the Negros Island, and Bicol region, pointing out the move’s timing “being so close to the campaign season.”
The detained critic of President Rodrigo Duterte said sending more soldiers those areas on account of “lawless violence” is “highly suspect.”
“Although the President has the power to call out the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in case of lawless violence, the timing of the additional troop deployments being so close to the campaign season worries us that there are sinister motivations behind the President’s move,” De Lima said in a dispatch from Camp Crame.
“It might be intended and used for purposes other than its avowed objective. One of them is influencing and controlling the conduct of the election campaign,” she added.
According to De Lima, presence of more soldiers in Samar, the Negros Island, and Bicol region could prevent opposition candidates from reaching certain areas to campaign since the military could restrict access there by merely citing supposed threats from rebels or military operations against “lawless elements.”
De Lima said the three provinces covered by Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32, especially Bicol Region, are areas where the opposition maintains significant presence.
“Curtailing the movement of opposition candidates not only in these areas but in other provinces as well will certainly affect the reach of their campaign and the chances of their candidacy,” the senator said.
De Lima further said the military could also restrict the exercise of people’s right to vote, “with the aim of effecting a low voter turn-out in opposition areas.”
She expressed hope, however, that the Armed Forces of the Philippines would remain true to its constitutional mandate and not engage in partisan politics.
“The right to suffrage is one of the last remaining basic rights that we still enjoy relatively unimpaired despite the current conditions of political repression and human rights violations under the Duterte regime. We cannot let it suffer the same fate as it is the only remaining voice we have to protest and resist authoritarian rule,” she said.
Memorandum Order No. 32 instructs the deployment of additional soldiers and policemen to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and the Bicol region to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror” in these areas.
The memorandum also allows intensified intelligence operations, as well as investigation and prosecution of persons or groups behind “acts of lawless violence.”
It noted that a “number of sporadic acts of violence have occurred recently” in several provinces. /kga
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