Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos on Sunday called on the Commission on Elections and the security sector to safeguard foreign observers from potential threats from terror groups in the run-up to the May midterm polls.
"Comelec must closely coordinate with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to tighten security for these foreign poll observers," she said.
Marcos said it is Comelec's prime responsibility to ensure the safety of the foreign observers, including giving them proper orientation on the parameters of their duty, especially pertaining to their security.
"If they are properly informed of their duties and responsibilities as foreign poll observers, I'm sure they will be shielded from harm's way," she said.
Marcos expressed concern that terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf are just waiting for an opportune time during the election season to raise funds by kidnapping foreigners in exchange for ransom.
"These international election watchers need to be extra careful because they are easy targets of terror groups specially now that the elections are nearing. This will be a big blow to President Duterte if one of them is imperiled," Marcos stressed.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military will conduct security briefings for foreign election observers.
“On the part of the AFP, it is our duty to ensure the safe conduct of the election, and that includes not only the safety of the voters but also the safety of foreign observers,” he said.
“They will be given security briefing. We also expect them to abide and cooperate with our security forces for the mutual objective of protecting them in order for them to perform their tasks safely,” Arevalo added,
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding eight hostages, including Ewold Horn from Groningen, Netherlands who was kidnapped while bird watching in Jolo in 2012.