Duterte orders more soldiers, cops in Bicol, Samar, Negros Island

Pia Ranada
Duterte orders more soldiers, cops in Bicol, Samar, Negros Island
(UPDATED) This is to 'suppress lawless violence and acts of terror' in those areas, according to Memorandum Order 32 which also reinforces guidelines for the implementation of a state of national emergency

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the deployment of more soldiers and police to the Bicol region and the provinces of Samar, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror.”

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed Memorandum Order No. 32 upon orders of President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, November 22. Malacañang released the document to the media on Friday, November 23.


MO 32 orders the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to “coordinate the immediate deployment of additional forces of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror” in those areas.

It directs the soldiers and cops to “prevent such violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”

The document does not cite specific incidents of lawless violence and acts of terror  in Samar, Bicol, and Negros Island which warranted the deployment of more troops.

It only states that a “number of sporadic acts of violence have occurred recently” in those areas and that they “appear to have been committed by lawless groups.”

Incidents

Since October, there have been news reports of New People’s Army attacks in these places. 

Duterte and the military have alleged that the NPA is behind the massacre of 9 sugarcane farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last October 20.

Two days before the Sagay incident, 3 police escorts and a Food and Drug Administration official were killed in a NPA ambush in Lupi, Camarines Sur in the Bicol region.

On October 30, a police officer was wounded in a suspected NPA attack in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. 

In a statement later on Friday, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed that the incidents were among those Duterte considered in issuing MO 32. He even said the Sagay massacre was one of the tipping points which led the President to release the order.

Incidents that stood out for Duterte were the “killing and ambush of uniformed personnel, attacks on police stations, torching and destruction of equipment, massacre of civilians, and murders of local officials,” Panelo said.

Here is a list of specific instances of violence Panelo cites as basis for MO 32:

Samar

  • Ambush of soldiers providing relief to victims of a typhoon in Northern Samar
  • Armed attack at the police station in Lapinig
  • Ambush attack against the 63rd Infantry Battalion in Matuguinao
  • Assault on the former mayor of San Jose de Buan

Negros Oriental

  • Torching of heavy equipment in Manjuyod
  • Strafing of the house of the barangay chairman
  • Attack of police detachments
  • Killing of a police chief in separate occasions in Guihulngan

Negros Occidental

  • Attack against the 62nd Infantry Battalion while conducting clearing and combat operations in preparation for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in Kabankalan
  • Massacre of 9 farmers in Sagay

In Bicol

  • Ambush of the convoy of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director-General Nela Charade Puno in Camarines Sur
  • Firefights in Lagonoy
  • Clash in Bato

Reinforcing rules on state of national emergency

MO 32 also reinforces Palace guidelines for the implementation of a state of national emergency on account of lawless violence, issued in 2016.

Duterte had declared a state of national emergency in early September 2016 after the bombing of a night market in Davao City that killed over a dozen people.

These guidelines, outlined in Memorandum Order 3 (series of 2016), explain how there is to be heightened visibility of police and military in critical public areas.

It also enumerates the cases when warrantless arrests may be made and what law enforcement authorities are allowed to do at checkpoints and stop-and-frisk situations.

The new Palace order states that reinforcing these guidelines is needed “in order to prevent further loss of innocent lives and destruction of property and bring the whole country back to a state of complete normalcy as quickly as possible.”

The declaration of a state of national emergency in 2016 was meant to suppress lawless violence specifically in the region of Mindanao and prevent its escalation in other parts of the country.

Malacañang issued MO 32 just over a month before the end of martial law in Mindanao, which is supposed to lapse on December 31. Military chief Carlito Galvez Jr his predecessor, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, support another martial law extension.

The PNP had also said it would recommend another extension of martial law, while at least two Palace officials have expressed openness to it. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.