Philippines: Arroyo Orders AFP, PNP to Stop Poll Violence, Dismantle Private Armies

Apr. 30, 2007

MANILA — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop election violence once and for all by reinforcing the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the effort to ensure peaceful and orderly elections under Commission on Elections (Comelec) supervision.

“I am calling on the Armed Forces to reinforce the police, under Comelec authority, to stop election violence and move forcefully against those using threats and intimidation for partisan ends,” President Arroyo said in a strongly worded three-paragraph statement.

The President also ordered the continuous manning of checkpoints and the confiscation of loose firearms.

“Checkpoints must be manned vigilantly 24 by 7 (21 hours a day, seven days a week), and all unauthorized firearms held,” she stressed.

“Cases of election violence must be speedily investigated, and cases filed promptly,” the President said, adding that “all identified private armies must be pre-empted and dismantled.”

With election-related violence escalating as election day nears, the President also “strongly urge(d) candidates of all parties and persuasions to keep tensions at bay and not to test or defy authorities.”

This, as Mayor Julian Resuello of San Carlos City in Pangasinan died today from gunshot wounds that he sustained from a gunmans attack during his citys fiesta celebration last Saturday.

Resuellos death brought to 31 the total number of people who have so far been killed in election-related violence leading to the May 14 midterm elections.

Meanwhile, the AFP had earlier committed to support the PNP in the latters duty to address election-related violence — “with the PNP as the lead agency and under the supervision of the Commission on Elections.”

In its April 5 website press statement, the AFP said it shall “jointly undertake measures to prevent the occurrence of ERVs (election-related violence),” what “with the noted increase in the number of election-related violent incidents (ERVIs)”

The AFP made the early April announcement as it recalled that it had signed last year with the Department of National Defense and the Commission on Elections a tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) which “provides that specific AFP units can be called upon and deputized to address strong armed threats that would hamper and prevent the conduct of a peaceful and orderly elections.”

“As the Armed Forces of the Philippines continue to actively address the threats posed by the New Peoples Army, secessionist and terrorist groups, AFP units — upon deputation by Comelec — shall make available necessary manpower support to the peacekeeping efforts of the Philippine National Police to deter ERVIs,” the AFP said.

The AFP also explained in its statement that “to ensure the peaceful and orderly conduct of the elections, the AFP, PNP and Comelec jointly calls (sic) individuals and groups to abstain from the use of violence in furthering their political ambitions as the AFP and the PNP will be ready to confront them head-on.” (OPS)

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