The outcome of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE) in Negros Oriental is critical in determining the future of the province and its people, a key Army official said yesterday.
Lt. General Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Visayas Command (VisCom), urged the soldiers to give their best in securing the October 30 polls, during a send-off ceremony of troops at the 302nd Brigade in Negros Oriental’s Tanjay City.
“We cannot fail our people in this election. This is very important to ensure that our future and the future of our children will be protected,” Arevalo said.
“Of all the units in the Visayas, only Negros Oriental is augmented with this kind of force,” he added.
He said the move to deploy over a hundred troopers in the province coming from other units in the Visayas, including counterparts from the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard, is to safeguard the elections following the controversy brought about by the assassination of Governor Roel Degamo last March.
The 181 augmentation forces coming from outside of Negros Oriental include four officers and 109 enlisted personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army); one officer and 28 enlisted personnel from the Philippine National Police (Regional Mobile Force Battalion in Central Visayas); and one officer and 38 enlisted personnel from Coast Guard-7.
They arrived in Negros Oriental early this week. This is on top of the other augmentation troops that were deployed to the province for the same purpose, although their assignments were not revealed.
Arevalo said he was “surprised in a happy way” to see that the other uniformed agencies also deployed more troops to Negros Oriental to beef up the current security force in the province.
He noted that Negros Oriental has hogged the limelight for several months since Degamo’s murder, referring to the succeeding events that led to the arrests of several suspects, the revelations of witnesses and fresh information on crimes and killings perpetrated over the years.
The Army commander said government authorities do not want this to happen again and thus the commitment to ensure that lawless elements will not succeed in their efforts to muddle the upcoming polls.
The VisCom chief expressed confidence that with passion and dedication, and with the support of the other agencies, and the people of Negros Oriental, “we will succeed in this mission.”
The augmentation troops will be deployed to the critical areas in the province as the campaign period formally begins on October 19.
Lawyer Felicisimo Catacutan Jr., Tanjay election officer, and representing the Commission on Elections provincial and regional offices, in the same activity, thanked the security forces for providing tight security in Negros Oriental.
He highlighted the importance of peace in achieving a successful election, pointing out that a failure of elections could possibly happen in the absence of security forces.
Private army no longer a threat
Meanwhile, Colonel Ronan Claravall, acting police provincial director, said the presence of a private armed group in Negros Oriental no longer “posed a threat” even though some members are still on the loose.
Claravall said these people are no longer capable of sowing terror as many of them are in hiding or have transferred to another place.
But Brigadier General Leonardo Peña, assistant division commander of the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) of the Philippine Army, stressed the need not to let their guard down because these lawless elements can still perpetrate crimes if left unattended.
Peña, representing 3ID commander Major Marion Sison, said government forces must remain vigilant and continue monitoring of armed individuals and threat groups to ensure the success of BSKE in Negros Oriental. (PNA)