LOCAL Government Secretary Eduardo Año has reiterated his order to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to beef up security measures to ensure the safety and security of local officials and those seeking position for the May elections.
Año said with the spate of killings directed mostly at political candidates, making them appear to be politically motivated, the PNP should step up in the conduct of security operations to ensure their safety.
“The PNP should take offensive and preventive measures. We should be several steps ahead of those who resort to violence to win an election. Dapat tayong maging mapagbantay at handa para mapigilan ang anumang kaguluhan (We should be vigilant to prevent any form of violence),” he said.
“The PNP should intensify police interventions, operations, and police visibility. Bago pa man magsimula ang kampanya, ipakita na natin na laging nakaalerto ang kapulisan para magdalawang-isip ang mga gustong manggulo sa eleksyon (Before the campaign period, let us show that we are ready to prevent any violence during the election),” he added.
On December 22, Ako Bicol Party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe and his police escort, Senior Police Officer 2 Orlando Diaz, were shot dead after a gift-giving activity to senior citizens and persons with disabilities in Daraga, Albay.
Daraga Mayor Carlwyn Baldo allegedly masterminded the killing after Batocabe filed his certificate of candidacy against the latter.
Earlier on the same day, former mayor Joelito Talaid of Kadingilan town in Bukidnon was gunned down as he was about to alight from his vehicle to buy fruits.
Año urged the local police to coordinate with local officials and candidates in order to secure their places of engagements, if needed, and provide security assistance to persons with validated actual threats, among others.
“This is in addition to the security and protection personnel that they could request from the PNP-PSPG (Police Security Protection Group),” he said.
The PSPG has ordered the recall of policemen detailed as security escorts to local officials from barangay councilor up to senators.
The recall of police escorts is done during election period to ensure that policemen will not be used by government officials and candidates for their personal advantage.
A total of 457 police escorts have been recalled from their duties.
But the PNP said politicians and candidates who have serious threat on their lives may submit their application before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for them to be provided with police security escorts during the election period.
Only the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, secretary of the Local Government, secretary of National Defense, Comelec chairman and commissioners, Armed Forces chief, Army, Air Force and Navy chiefs, PNP chief and policemen with rank of superintendent or higher are automatically exempted from the recall.
Año urged the local officials and candidates to take over their own safety and security and to have the responsibility to be extra careful and vigilant in order to protect themselves.
“The police cannot secure every single candidate or citizen every single moment of the day. Tungkulin din ng mga kandidato na mag-ingat at protektahan ang sarili nila at ang kanilang pamilya (It is also the responsibility of the candidates to protect themselves and their families),” Año said.
“Kailangan din natin ng kooperasyon ng publiko para ireport sa kapulisan ang anumang kahina-hinalang aktibidad sa kanilang lugar (We also need the public's cooperation, specifically to report to police any suspicious activities in their localities),” he added. (SunStar Philippines)