Military intel eyes NPA areas on elections

Major General Ariel Bernardo, commanding officer of the 10th Infantry Division, says Monday the military “will be occupying conflict-affected areas,” or about 15 percent of his unit’s area of responsibility, which he calls “guerilla bases.” These are in the boundaries of Davao del Norte-Bukidnon, Davao del Norte-Agusan Sur and Compostela Valley-Davao Oriental.

By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
Davao Today / Reposted by ()

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A high-ranking military official revealed that their intelligence will focus on armed groups, particularly the New People’s Army (NPA), come May 13 elections.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, commanding officer of the 10th Infantry Division, says Monday the military “will be occupying conflict-affected areas,” or about 15 percent of his unit’s area of responsibility, which he calls “guerilla bases.” These are in the boundaries of Davao del Norte-Bukidnon, Davao del Norte-Agusan Sur and Compostela Valley-Davao Oriental.

The 10th ID covers Region XI’s four provinces as well as the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani; the cities of Kidapawan and General Santos; and six municipalities of North Cotabato province.

Since January, Bernardo claims, the NPA has been sending out letters demanding certain amount of materials to politicians or has been asking for permit-to-campaign (PTC) fees.

PTC is said to allow both the local and national candidates to campaign while the permit-to-win is said to guarantee a candidate’s victory in NPA-stronghold areas.

Candidates, Bernardo urges, should not “give in” to the NPA as he offers for military assistance with respect to security concerns.
“The NPA can’t claim they have control areas or that they have command votes because we have covered all villages,” he says.

The villages in the Davao Region alone, according to the National Statistical and Coordination Board, are: Davao del Sur, 337; Davao City, 183; Davao del Norte, 223; Compostela Valley, 235; and Davao Oriental, 183.

But, in its earlier statement, Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman for NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command, said that the AFP and even the Philippine government “fail miserably” to debunk that “revolutionary forces” can determine the outcome of the elections.

“The AFP is allergic to the very idea that the NPA can let progressive and neutralized candidates win while it can also isolate the most rabid ones,” Sanchez said.

The NPA also said that politicians should “provide material and financial help to fund mass production campaign, education, health, and immediate infrastructure projects especially in areas badly hit by Typhoon Pablo and other calamities.”

Meanwhile, Bernardo also says they have enough forces “to provide safety and security” for the May 13 polls.

“We are 90 percent ready,” he claims during the Kapehan sa SM. The 10th ID commands four Brigades and 12 Battalions with over 7,400 soldiers.

However, he notes that military officials like the company and battalion commanders and himself included, will still have to make rounds or ocular inspection on polling places “to layout security plans.”

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), based on its Resolution 9570 issued last December 6, has deputized the AFP to ensure “free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible conduct” of the upcoming national and local elections.

Among its tasks are to provide security to polling places, voting and counting centers, and other places that will be used by the Comelec: provide security to the personnel and deputies of Comelec and those who are performing election-related functions; deploy troops for election duty in coordination with the Regional Election Director and the Provincial Election Supervisors concerned; and to make available land, air and water-craft assets, communication systems and other equipment, in connection with the delivery and retrieval of election equipment, documents, supplies, forms and paraphernalia.

However, any officer or member of the AFP, as well as the Philippine National Police, is not allowed “to enter any polling place or stay within a 50-meter radius,” according to Comelec Resolution 9485.
The same resolution also prohibits any peace officer or any armed person belonging to any extra-legal police agency, special forces, reaction forces, strike forces, Civilian Armed Force Geographical Units, barangay tanods or other similar forces or paramilitary forces, including special forces, and security guards; all other kinds of armed or unarmed extra-legal police forces; and; any candidate or barangay official, whether elected or appointed.

The Board of Election Inspector (BEI), may however, “order in writing” the detail of any policeman or peace officer for its protection and that of the election documents and paraphernalia. A form which has to be filled in is already prepared for this.

But Bernardo says he has asked the Comelec to device ways for faster coordination of the BEIs and soldiers. He says that instead for the BEI to write down a request or fill up the form, which he says could take time given the 50-meter distance, they could instead coordinate through text messaging. He adds they have a plan of coordinating with both the local and international watchdogs.

It must be noted that the AFP, according to Comelec Resolution 9570, is prohibited “from engaging, directly or indirectly, in any partisan political activity, except to vote” and from “partisan political activity.”

It can be recalled that in 2004, military generals like then Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, Lt. Gen. Roy Kyamko, Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon and Maj. Gen. Gabriel Habacon were allegedly involved in rigging the Presidential elections in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who won over 1.1 Million votes over Fernando Poe Jr.

The Mayuga Report, according to Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares in 2011, revealed that Brig. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia and Lt. Col. Victoriano Pimentel have admitted to fraud and irregularities in the 2004 polls.

Other military officials have also allegedly committed anomalies like Col. Jose Gamos for campaigning for a Sulu gubernatorial candidate; Col. Rey Ardo for campaigning for Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy party-list; and Capt. Valentino Lopez for offering a bribe of between P50 million and P100 million to the head of Zamboanga City’s board of canvassers.

But the five-panel member tasked to investigate the allegation led by then Vice Adm. Mateo Mayuga cleared the military officials and said there was no case of fraud. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)

Share This Post