ABOUT 150 troops were deployed to Moises Padilla in Negros Occidental Saturday, April 27, following the recent killings involving town officials.
Brigadier General Benedict Arevalo, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, said the troops came from the 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB).
Arevalo, in his message, during the send-off ceremony of the military troops at Poblacion Market in the town, said the deployment of additional military troops in the town was through the order of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“We are here because the Comelec asked for our help in ensuring peace and order in the town,” Arevalo said.
Three armored vehicles, two military 6x6 trucks, and 10 light trucks were also sent to the town.
The deployment of troops came after the ambush which was allegedly staged by private armed groups at Barangay Inolingan on April 25 which resulted in the death of reelectionist Councilor Jose Antonio Garcia and his uncle, Jose Marcelino Garcia, brother of Vice Mayor Ella Celestina Garcia-Yulo. The victims came from a campaign sortie when they were attacked by not less than 20 unidentified gunmen.
The first attack also happened at the said village when suspected New People’s Army (NPA) killed Councilor Jolomar Hilario, who was also seeking for reelection.
The Comelec earlier declared the town an area of immediate concern under red category, following the death of Hilario.
The Provincial Joint Security Control Center (PJSCC) composed of the Comelec, Philippine Army, and Philippine National Police (PNP) has recently recommended to place the town under Comelec control due to the election-related violence.
However, it is the Comelec en banc which will decide on the said recommendation.
Provincial Election supervisor Milagros Salud Villanueva said they also attached the same recommendation from Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr.
If the town is place under Comelec control, “we will have full and direct supervision over local and national agencies in the town relative to all the duties during the election and full control of the security personnel,” Villanueva said.
“I would like to stress that there is urgency and necessity in this situation but we have to wait for the decision of the Comelec en banc before we can make the declaration,” she said.
It is more prudent for us to wait, she added.
“We’re taking this seriously,” she said, as she assured the voters of a peaceful election in the province on May 13.
With the deployment of troops, Arevalo said they will be able to contain the town, adding that additional forces is necessary.
Private armed groups or the NPA should not be existing in the town, he said.
Also present during the ceremony were Lieutenant Colonel Egberto Dacosco, commander of 62nd Infantry Battalion, Police Captain Junji Liba, town police chief, and town’s Comelec assistant officer Rosana Lamec.