Hijab troopers join forces sent to Lanao, Zamboanga provinces
LABANGAN, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines — Twenty-two hijab troopers — or female soldiers wearing head scarves — were among the 355 military and police personnel sent off on Monday to provinces in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao to secure the May 13 midterm elections.
Specifically, the troops will be sent Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and part of Misamis Occidental.
Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said the troops were organized as a provisional battalion under his unit.
The troops were trained to be “culturally-sensitive” so that they would be able deal with people in Muslim communities in the Lanao provinces.
Ancan instructed the troops to be respectful, sensitive to the needs of the Moro communities, responsible and cautious in their actions.
“[We deployed them] so that we may continue to sustain the progress that we have achieved in the pursuit of peace in Mindanao,” he told Inquirer.
“Do your job in securing the different precincts and [be sensitive to the needs of] cultural communities, while addressing the possible presence of threat groups,” he told the troops. “Support the campaign for a peaceful and free elections.”
This developed as the military put under close security watch the three Lanao del Norte towns of Salvador, Pantar and Tagoloan, where intense rivalry among political clans prompted the military to include them in its list of areas of concerns during the elections.
On Monday, Task Force Piniliay [Elections] 2019 also deployed peacekeeping troops in the 44 barangays of Iligan City in Lanao del Norte and the 22 towns of Lanao del Sur, according to Col. Alex T. Aduca, deputy commander of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade who also heads the task force.
The brigade, which also will also provide security during the observance of Ramadan, which started on Monday, is composed of the 11th Division Reconnaissance Company and the 4th and 5th Mechanized Infantry Battalions.
According to lawyer Jossil Macute, Zamboanga del Sur provincial election supervisor, political clans in the province have been locked an intense political rivalry.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec), he said, had received reports of private armed groups harassing barangays and of communist rebels being seen in some areas, prompting police and military authorities to set up checkpoints in key areas.
Meanwhile, soldiers in the area already finished with absentee voting the previous week, according to Lt. Col. Rey Tiongson, chief of civil-military operations of the 1st ID.
—With reports from Richel V. Umel
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