PNP to ask Comelec to postpone barangay polls in Zambo

MANILA, Philippines – As the police continues to conduct clearing operations in Zamboanga City, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima said Tuesday, October 1, the police will recommend to the poll body the postponement of the barangay elections scheduled this month in the area. 

However, Purisima said, it wants the election-related gun ban, which started last Saturday, to stay in place.

"Dapat nga mas mayroong gun ban doon kasi if we allow [na walang] gun ban, iisipin ng mga tao na okay lang na magdala ng baril," Purisima said. (The gun ban is in fact more needed there because if we allow it to be lifted, people would think it's okay to bring guns.)

About 50% of Zamboanga City has been cleared as of Monday, September 30, according to the police. 

It could take about two more weeks to finish all clearing operations,said PNP Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr.

But Purisima said the deadline is not absolute, and the police would rather exercise caution than conduct a haphazard operation.  

"Hindi po natin minamadali ang clearing natin. Kasi pag may nadisgrasya, 'yun ang [mas mahirap]," Purisima said. (We are not in a hurry to finish our clearing operations. It would be more difficult if someone gets hurt.)

Remnants of crisis

The military turned over the clearing operations in Zamboanga City to the police after the government declared the 3-week Zamboanga crisis as over Saturday. 

During such operations, authorities sweep all affected areas for possible explosive devices, shrapnels, casualties, and other potentially harmful materials before displaced residents can go back to their homes. 

Security forces said the threat of organized resistance in Zamboanga City has been tamed, but Rojas said police are still chasing about "one or two" stragglers in the area. 

According to a report from civil society organization Mindanao Rights Action Center, 19 cadavers were recovered in Barangay Sta Catalina on Monday, September 30. 

Classes in areas outside of the conflict zones have resumed, but according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, 108,661 individuals or 20,699 families remain in evacuation centers.

On September 8, troops identified with the Moro National Liberation Front faction led by its founding chairman Nur Misuari took over 4 barangays, taking over 20 hostages.

The crisis left 5 policemen, 18 soldiers, 13 civilians and 103 MNLF members dead, and at least 194 security forces and 72 civilians wounded. As of Tuesday, 253 MNLF members have been arrested while 24 have surrendered.