PNP Bicol assures safety of local politicians sans armed escorts

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LEGAZPI CITY (9-Jan-2013/PNA) – The regional police headquarters here on Wednesday assured local officials running for elective posts of protection even as they are prohibited to ask for police or military escorts during the election period, which will start on Sunday.

On the first day of the election period, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and all other government security and law enforcement agencies will recall their personnel serving as bodyguards of local officials based on the directives of Resolution No.9695-A recently issued by the Commission on Election (COMELEC).

The resolution suspends the privilege of local officials, especially those who are candidates in the coming polls, of being personally escorted by government-employed armed security escorts as it forbids the PNP, military and similar agencies from doing so.

Local politicians who can convince the COMELEC that there is imminent danger to their lives or to members of their immediate family, however, could be allowed to acquire the services of authorized private security agencies to provide them a maximum of two armed bodyguards.

Private security agencies, on the other hand, are allowed to arm their security personnel to be assigned to politicians only with guns that are not higher than 9mm or 12-gauge shotgun in caliber.

These personnel must be licensed and have undergone proper training.

In seeing to it that the candidates and the public are safe from violent incidents during the election period, policemen would be assigned to maintain peace and order during legal political gatherings like campaign rallies and meetings, said Chief Supt. Clarence Guinto, newly installed PNP-Bicol regional director.

Guinto said candidates could request for the fielding of uniformed policemen during their political gatherings from the Provincial Joint Security Control Center (JSCC) that will be under the supervision of the election supervisor in each of the six provinces of Bicol.

Police and military will man COMELEC the 24-hour checkpoints along the roads and highways in line with the implementation of the total election gun ban that would run starting Jan. 13 until June 12, the entire duration of the election period this year, he added.

The PNP regional chief said that special attention is given to the island province of Masbate where top provincial positions are being hotly contested between the equally powerful political clans of incumbent Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, who is running for reelection, and reigning Congressman Antonio Kho of the second congressional district, her challenger.

Guinto said the PNP Masbate provincial office headed by Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit and the PNP Regional Special Task Group organized and fielded by the police regional headquarters as the lead force in securing the conduct of the elections in the province are working hand in hand to disarm and disband at least six local partisan armed groups(PAGs).

They are also tasked to initiate massive operations to recover the over-6,000 loose firearms from the hands of civilians and politicians in the province, he added.

Police records place the total number of loose firearms in Bicol at 30,000, of which around 11,400 are in Camarines Sur; 7,829 in Albay; 2,860 in Camarines Norte; Sorsogon, 2,777; and Catanduanes, 694.

“We want to recover as many as we could if not all of these loose guns, before the coming elections to minimize if not totally prevent election-related violence in Masbate and in the entire region,” Guinto added. (PNA)

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