Purisima says all systems go for May polls, despite reports of private armies, loose guns
LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines—Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima looked forward to peaceful elections in May despite reports of private armed groups still operating in various parts of the country.
With almost four weeks left before the May 13 elections, Purisima said he has directed police units across the country to prioritize and intensify the crackdown against private armed groups (PAGs), loose firearms and other criminal elements to ensure violent-free elections.
“With the cooperation of the community, the local governments and other sector of society, I am certain the forthcoming May election would be peaceful and orderly,” Purisima said while in this city on Friday.
Purisima said that based on police intelligence reports, there are about 47 PAGs operating across the country. The presence of PAGs were noted mostly in Mindanao, specifically in Maguindanao, while the rest were in Luzon and the Visayas, he said.
PAGs are armed men employed mostly employed by politicians during an election period, as security detail or as an advantage over political rivals.
In Bicol, police were tracking down two private armed groups in Masbate with 38 heavily armed members, revealed Bicol police director Chief Superintendent Clarence Guinto.
Guinto said the anti-PAGs campaign resulted in the arrest of at least three PAGs leader and 25 suspected members and the confiscation of their firearms in Masbate.
Masbate, which has been included in the 15 provinces declared as election hotspots, was given “priority attention due to past election related violence and the presence of armed groups which made the province an area of critical concern,” Purisima said.
Purisima, however, said that the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines were still consolidating their reports to determine which provinces they would recommend to the Commission on Election to be placed under Comelec control.
Purisima was in this city on Friday as a resource person at a Bicol University forum– sponsored by university graduate students–which followed a forum he presided at a conference at the PNP headquarters in Camp Gen. Simeon Ola.