The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division is refocusing its effort on ensuring peaceful elections in the Western Visayas, barely a week before the start of the election period on Jan. 13, its commander, Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., said.
With this development, Mabanta said they have to double their efforts, as they will also continue their internal security operations, which remains their primary mission.
As deputized agents of the Commission on Election, Mabanta said they may assist the Philippine National Police in the enforcement of the gun ban and in seeing to it that all candidates have authorized “bodyguards”.
He added that politicians may enlist the security services of “blue guards” during the election period.
Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said all policemen serving as security escorts of politicians will be recalled before Jan. `13, when the enforcement of the Comelec gun ban starts.
Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said they will also assist the PNP in the conduct of random checkpoints in strategic areas of Negros Occidental starting Sunday.
Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (6th district,Negros Occidental) yesterday expressed support to the call for a total gun ban.
Mabanta also said he is for a total gun ban “outside of security forces”, at least, during the election period.
To ensure transparency, Lactao had earlier said that he is inviting media representatives to observe the checkpoints of the Philippine Army and police personnel, to ensure that they are observing strictly the rules and regulations, prescribed by the Commission on Election.
Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional police director of Western Visayas, also announced that all permits to carry firearms outside residence will be suspended, effective Jan. 13.
Aside from the cancellation of the PTCFOR, Cruz said the mission orders, letter orders and even acknowledgement receipts issued by the PNP to allow the carrying of guns outside one’s residence, have been suspended since December 3 last year. * GPB