Some 160,000 police will be deployed for election duty in the mid-term elections on May 13 to ensure a peaceful and orderly electoral exercise, officials said Thursday.
At a press conference, Police Col. Bernard Banac said the increased deployment took effect Thursday and would represent 85 percent of the total strength of the Philippine National Police.
“We want to prevent violence by any group. We want to have a maximum presence of our security forces,” Banac said in a mix of Filipino and English.
He said the fielding of additional policemen is not a response to a specific threat, but meant to “ensure that noun toward incident or violence will take place” on election day.
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said that both the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are verifying intelligence reports that a number of candidates have paid “permit-to-campaign” fees to the communist New People’s Army.
If the reports are true, candidates will be charged for aiding, financing, supporting, or conniving with the terrorists and their supposed allies.
In other developments:
• On Thursday, the Comelec deposited the second batch of source code for the automated elections with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for custody and safekeeping.
The source code was placed in individual envelopes and locked in a box secured with a paper seal signed by Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino.
“By depositing the source codes, we are creating a trusted archival copy of the source codes, which will now serve as the indispensable anchor of the entire automated election system’s reliability, credibility, and integrity,” Tolentino said.
• The Department of Energy on Thursday assured the public that there will be enough supply of electricity in time for the May 13 elections with the entry of new power plants, but said “extraordinary” circumstances could still affect this forecast.
At the same time, the department said, it is pursuing a third-party audit of power plants to ensure they comply with regulations and policies.
“There is additional capacity coming in…and some power plants that have problems are now coming back online. We have supply,” Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told reporters on the sidelines of Thursday’s Senate hearing.
Cusi said there are allowances for planned and forced outages but there are still instances when there are simultaneous shutdowns of power plants.
“That is an extraordinary happening when power plants go offline simultaneously,” he said. “But based on records, we have sufficient supply.”
Cusi said plants from Therma Mobile Inc. and Millenium Energy (about 300 MW) and Therma Visayas Inc. (300 MW) will add to the supply in Cebu.
• Otso Diretso campaign manager Senator Francis Pangilinan is happy about the “surprise come-from-behind win” of their senatorial candidates who had been lagging behind the administration’s senatorial bets in all preelection surveys.
He told Thursday’s breakfast forum at the Senate that in his 18 years as a senator, he had witnessed several “surprise finishes” that happened in the previous national elections.
“We have this so-called last-minute come-from-behind surprise victory,” said Pangilinan who was president of the ruling Liberal Party in the past administration.
Reacting to the results of the surveys in which the Otso Diretso candidates failed to make it to the “Winning Circle
,” Pangilinan said the surveys were the results on the day they were conducted and “not yet the result of the elections.”
He said the survey that should be watched closely is the one on election day on May 13.
Citing intelligence reports, the DILG said a number of candidates gave in to the rebels' demands in the Cordilleras, Bicol region, areas in Quezon province, Eastern Visayas and Eastern Mindanao where the presence of NPAs is strong.
At the same time, Malaya said they were also checking reports that sample ballots bearing the names of candidates who gave in to the extortion of the NPAs are already circulating in those areas.
He said, however, that the number of candidates giving in to the NPA demands appeared to be lower than the 2016 elections.
Malaya said that based on DILG monitoring, some P195.5 million was accumulated by the terrorists groups from extortion activities from 2016 to 2018.
The Commission on Elections said they are 95 percent ready for the May 13 elections.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said he is hesitant to say that they are 100 percent ready due to the structural integrity of some schools and facilities that will be used as polling places, which may have been affected by the 6.1 magnitude earthquake which struck Luzon on April 22.
Jimenez said once a facility has been found to be structurally unfit, they will have to relocate a polling center.
“But otherwise the machines are all in the regional hubs, some of them have already been delivered to the far-flung areas, the ballots are in place, teachers are finishing up their refresher courses. So, in general we are just really waiting for the day itself,” Jimenez said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and PNA
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