SULTAN MASTURA, Maguindanao: Police and military personnel have been deployed to this town eight days before the national and local elections following a series of bomb attacks on seven public elementary schools last week.
The Philippine Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Earl Badiao, said a company-sized group of soldiers from the 37th Infantry Battalion backed by the Provincial Public Safety Battalion (PPSB) have been deployed in Sultan Mastura’s 13 villages to ensure that next Monday’s synchronized elections would be peaceful and orderly.
On Wednesday last week, unidentified men fired rifle grenades and strafed seven elementary schools in Sultan Mastura that the poll body will use as voting centers on May 9.
These schools are Tambo Elem. School, Tapayan Central School, Dagurungan Elem. School, Tuka Elem. School, Darping Elem. School, Tareken Primary, and Simuay Seashore Elem. School, all located southwest of Sultan Mastura.
No one was hurt in the attacks in Sultan Mastura, a town not considered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as an area of concern.
“We are securing the villages, our mandate is to ensure the areas are safe for voters to exercise their rights of suffrage,” Badiao told reporters.
Badiao said he has ordered the deployment of more troops as peacekeepers to ensure the election will push through.
Kurais Dali, Sultan Mastura election officer, said there is no order so far whether the town will be placed under Comelec control.
“Not all schools buildings were bombed, there are still other schools that can be used on election day,” she said.
ARMM’s education regional secretary, Dr. John Magno, appealed to all stakeholders to spare the teachers who are only performing their duties as mandated by law.
“The school is clearly apolitical and should not be destroyed due to politics because it will affect the future of the pupils. I appeal to all parties in this coming election, please spare our teachers from violence,” Magno said.
Meanwhile, Senior Insp. Ronald de Leon, speaking for the police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PNP-ARMM), said an investigation showed that an armed group wanted the town to be under Comelec control so that voting precincts will be clustered.
“The suspects apparently do not trust the teachers because they were identified with the current town administration,” de Leon said. He did not elaborate as the police investigation was still ongoing.
He said the group supports one of the mayoral aspirants.
No group has claimed responsibility for the grenade attacks and strafing. Four candidates are aspiring for the mayoralty post.