Official Publication of the Philippine Information Agency Bicol Regional Office, in cooperation with the RIAC-REDIRAS - RDC Bicol

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

AFP, PNP reactivate joint forces vs political mercenaries in Masbate

MASBATE CITY, Feb. 17 (PIA)—A special operations group of elite policemen and soldiers was reactivated on Tuesday to press the campaign against mercenary groups working for politicians and communist guerillas in the island-province of Masbate.

A conference presided by the highest military official in Southern Luzon and the highest police official in Bicol was held on Tuesday marking the activation of AFP-PNP Joint Special Task Force Masbate (JSTF Masbate) at the provincial headquarters of the Philippine National Police here.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said he has ordered his troops in the JSTF Masbate to arrest any armed candidates and armed bodyguards as a gun ban is in force during the election period.

“Pag pumutok sila, tapusin sila agad (If they open fire on you, finish them off),” said Visaya.

He told candidates who appeared in the meeting that the estate security forces had a list of armed groups working for politicians in Masbate.

Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez Jr., director of Philippine National Police for Bicol, said the decision to reactivate the JSTF Masbate was part of the police and military’s aim to stem the growing tension and “help create an environment that will be conducive for the holding of peaceful and orderly elections.”

Judging from the statements given during the meeting, there was a consensus among political contenders that the presence of JSTF in Masbate was for the good of the province as it has remained in the election watch list areas (EWAs) for the May 9 balloting.

Masbate’s inclusion in the EWAs this year was due to the resurgence of partisan death squads and New People’s Army, whose “dwindling” force, Visaya said, will attempt to rake in millions of pesos extorting money from candidates.  

The candidates said all of them and their campaign leaders—from gubernatorial to village councilors—are under serious threat.

At least seven killings have been reported since January, when the election season began and the Commission on Elections imposed the ban on firearms, in what authorities said were election-related attacks in Ticao Island and Placer town in Masbate mainland.

Members of JSTF Masbate who belong to the military’s special operations forces will arrive in Masbate “very soon” to beef up the battalion of police troopers in the task force, said Visaya.

In 2010, an election year, Masbate surprised observers when it registered a relatively low number of politically motivated killings. The decline was chiefly credited to the JSTF Masbate, which was then backed up by the Masbate Advocates of Peace (MAP), a multisectoral group.

In 2013, the JSTF Masbate was reactivated to oversee the security operations in what turned out to be blood-tainted elections in the province. (EAD/PIA5-Masbate)

- See more at: http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/821455692637/afp-pnp-reactivate-joint-forces-vs-political-mercenaries-in-masbate#sthash.EUMPkSF6.dpuf

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