LEGAZPI CITY: The Philippine National Police-Bicol Region office (PNP-Bicol) will deploy 1,000 cops including one battalion of elite force Special Action Force (SAF) in the island province of Masbate, dubbed as the “wild west” of the Philippines, following the bloody election violence in the past.
Malu Calubaquib, PNP-Bicol regional spokesperson, told The Manila Times the police office in the region will deploy one battalion of elite force and 800 cops in Masbate.
“The PNP regional command will be deploying 800 policemen to augment the present police force in Masbate. Aside from 800 cops from our regional command, one battalion of out elite force Special Action Force will also be deployed to help our policemen for security measures,” she said.
“Task Force Masbate” will be headed by Senior Supt. Lito Pitallano while Senior Police Insp. Art Gomez, former chief of police of Malinao, will serve as public information officer of the task force.
Masbate has been placed under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during polls following high incidence of election related violence since time immemorial because of warring political camps, presence of goons, and a high number of loose firearms and killing incidents related to politics.
In 2010 and 2013 elections, PNP-Bicol recommended to the Commission on Elections to place 601 villages across the region under the list of election hotspots following violence related to polls and activities by communist insurgents.
Meanwhile, 26 towns in Bicol are classified as hotspot areas that prompted the police and military to recommend these areas to be placed under the control of the poll body.
The island province of Masbate topped the list with 69 villages placed under Category 1 and 103 villages as Category 2 hotspots. In Sorsogon, 61 villages were placed under Category 2 hotspots with Gubat town having the most number with 13 followed by Sorsogon City with 10 villages.
Under Category 1, towns and villages experience election related violence because of intense political rivalries, killings and the existence of private armed groups during the past two elections. Under Category 2 are areas that are threatened by communist rebels and other election related incidences.
Besides the PNP-Bicol and Comelec office in Region 4, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Catholic church officials and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting are working together to ensure honest and clean elections in 2016 in the region.