Thursday, 6 May 2010

Troops won’t let Maguindanao polls fail

Charlie Señase, Dennis Jay Santos and Orlando Dinoy
Inquirer Mindanao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

COTABATO CITY—MILITARY AND POLICE AUTHORITIES IN MAguindanao are bent on ensuring that elections are held in the province despite the wave of violence that is threatening the exercise there.

“We are all set for the holding of the elections,” said Senior Supt. Alex Lineses, Maguindanao police chief.

The cases of violence that wracked the province in recent days, he said, were “isolated cases.”

Chief Supt. Bienvenido Latag, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director, admitted that Maguindanao, like the other ARMM provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Lanao del Sur, was a “major area of concern” for government security forces.

More troops

But Latag said the security of polling precincts, voters and election workers had been tightened with the deployment of more forces.

Col. Herbert Yambing, of the military-led Joint Security Coordinating Center in Maguindanao, said authorities were hoping the “mutual understanding” entered into by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would further ensure the success of elections in the province.

During the peace and order council meeting held here on Tuesday, Maguindanao acting governor Gani Biruar said town mayors and other local government officials had also pledged their all out commitment for peaceful and orderly elections.

Call to unite

“The success or failure of the coming political exercise lies in everyone’s hand. We have to unite, strong enough, to come up with the true sentiment of the electorate,” said Isa Romancap, provincial local government operations officer.

The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom)—which covers southern and portions of northern Mindanao and the ARMM—also said security measures had been put in place even in remotest villages against efforts to disrupt the elections.

“We can assure and I can personally say there will be no failure of elections,” said Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Eastmincom spokesperson.

MILF no threat

Cabangbang said the MILF was not a cause for concern now because of the agreement on mutual cooperation the rebel group had signed with the government.

“There is no perceived security threat in MILF-controlled areas,” he said.

But Cabangbang said the military was not letting its guard down in the case of the New People’s Army.

Elsewhere, however, political murders continue.

Calixto Cariaga, 52, a supporter of Don Marcelino town mayoral candidate John Johnson, was shot dead while on his way home from a rally around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Senior Supt. Ronald Dela Rosa, Davao del Sur police director, said the unidentified suspects fled on motorcycles after killing the victim, who was also the father of a candidate for councilor.

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