Not a single barangay in the 5th district of Negros Occidental has been categorized as an “election watchlist area” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Police.
However, the Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade, Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office and the 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion are not taking chances, and are deploying about 1,000 policemen and military personnel to ensure that the June 2 special election in the 5th district of the province, will be peaceful and orderly.
Maj. Alex Elnar, 303rd IB Operations Officer, in his briefing during a Comelec-PNP-AFP Provincial Coordinating Conference, yesterday classified six hinterland barangays in La Castellana, Himamaylan, Binalbagan and Isabela as rebel-influenced areas.
There are 38 polling precincts in the 5th district that is composed of Moises Padilla, La Castellana, Isabela, Hinigaran, Binalbagan and Himamaylan City, which the military and police have categorized as difficult to reach, due to inaccessibility of transportation.
The joint security plan of NOPPO and 303rd Infantry Brigade for the 5th district special election, was presented yesterday to the Commission on Elections, in a briefing held at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City, which was attended by Comelec Commissioner Armando Velasco, Provincial Comelec supervisor Jessie Suarez, Senior Supts. Allan Guisihan and Manuel Felix, Col. Oscar Lactao, and Comelec Deputy Executive Director for Operations Bartolome Sinocruz.
Supt. Jefferson Descallar, NOPPO Operations Branch chief, yesterday said they will employ about 700 policemen to man the 117 polling precincts, and secure its outside perimeters, while Elnar said 500 military personnel will also be utilized for similar purposes.
Citing their performance in the 2010 elections, which they considered as the most peaceful in the history of Negros Occidental, Suarez and Felix, then the provincial police director, said there is no reason for them to fail on the June 2 special elections.
Elnar, meanwhile, said a joint tactical operation center will be established in Brgy. Gargato, Hinigaran, and election monitoring centers will be set up in the five towns and city of the 5th district.
The official campaign period for the vacated 5th district congressional seat will start on May 17.
Binalbagan Mayor Alejandro Mirasol and his nephew, Board Member Emilio Yulo III, initially appear to be heading for a showdown for the congressional seat vacated by the death of Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo.
Guisihan said they have not monitored any report of existing private armed groups being maintained by politicians in Negros Occidental.
He said they are also deploying a company of police troopers for a special barangay election in Brgy. Lipat-on, Calatrava, on May 12, on top of military personnel to be fielded also by the 303rd Infantry Brigade. * GPB