Masbate security focus as 2,000 troopers sent in
LUCENA CITY—At least 2,000 soldiers and policemen would be stationed in Masbate for the election period, signifying a focus by law enforcement agencies on the province that has become notorious for political violence and where seven politically related killings had already been reported since the start of the year.
In a statement quoting the Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ricardo Marquez, the PNP said 350 more policemen would be sent to Masbate in addition to at least 1,000 already there.
In the statement, released by Lt. Col. Angelo Guzman, public information chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said 100 more soldiers would be tapped from the Army’s 9th Infantry Division to reinforce 500 soldiers already in the province.
Marquez and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Solcom chief, met with Masbate government leaders and candidates, led by Gov. Vicente Homer Revil, on Tuesday for a dialogue for peaceful elections on May 9.
The group will sign a peace covenant on March 4.
One of the main reasons law enforcement agencies are focusing on Masbate, according to Visaya, is the presence of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels and private armed groups in the province.
Visaya appealed to candidates to shun private armies.
NPA rebels in Masbate, according to Visaya, are a “potent threat.” Candidates, he said, should refuse to pay permit-to-campaign fees to the rebels which the Solcom chief said the police and military would stop as a “top priority” program.
Gov. Revil said while Masbate has gained notoriety for reports about private armies and “strong political rivalries,” the province is on the police watch list of election hot spots mainly because of NPA rebels. Delfin T. Mallari Jr. and Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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