LEGAZPI CITY, 15Jan2016 — The Philippine National Police (PNP) is deploying two battalions of police officers, one from the regional police office and one from the Special Action Force (SAF), in Masbate province, a PNP regional official said Thursday.
Police Senior Insp. Malu Calubaquib, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said Masbate has been considered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as among the election hot spot areas in the country.
Calubaquib said the regional command was sending 800 policemen to augment the present police force in the island-province.
The PNP Bicol has been gearing for the May elections by implementing security measures and the deployment of two police battalions in Masbate would ensure that political-related violence will not thrive during the campaign period for the May 2016 national and local elections.
Earlier, the police regional office set up hundreds of Comelec-PNP checkpoints in strategic areas in the entire region, with over 1,000 policemen to man them, the regional police spokesperson said.
At the onset of the election period on Jan. 10, the PNP was able to set up 202 Comelec checkpoints, with 1,515 policemen manning them.
The deployment of policemen is in response to the reactivation of Task Force Masbate, to be headed by Police Senior Supt. Lito Pitallano, the concurrent deputy director for operations, with Police Senior Insp. Art Gomez serving as Task Force spokesperson.
The Task Force Masbate was created following reports that local politicians here had exercised too much influence over the police and sometimes, the police were being dictated upon in the conduct of their operations.
The TF Masbate was formed during the previous election to oversee the security operations in the province tagged by the military and the police as “hot spot” areas due to intense political rivalries and the presence of political armed groups (PAGs) and communist rebels.
These have resulted in election-related violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of people.
In past election events, the Comelec-PNP joint force has identified the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte as election areas of concern due to intense political rivalries and the presence of PAGs and the New People Army rebels.
Based on the list, Masbate has the most number of villages that were placed under Comelec control with 40 villages in 18 towns.
In the previous national and local elections, there were at least six PAGs listed to be operating in Masbate, of which only two are active — the Arizobal and the Villaruel groups, with 38 members.
During the 2012 national and local elections, the Task Force was able seize hundreds of loose firearms and encourage political candidates to surrender at least 200 high-powered firearms. (PNA)