No need for Comelec control on Negros Occ – PNP, AFP

Carmela Fonbuena

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"From all indications, it's not a political incident. This is an insurgency," says AFP 3rd ID commander Jose Mabanta Jr.
BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The military and the police in Negros Occidental do no support calls by re-electionist Gov Alfredo Marañon to put the province under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec). He made the call after the killing of a police officer and a police asset on Monday, the fourth day of the local campaign period. 

“With the new information we just got. We feel this is just an isolated case. At this point, we think this does not call for it (placing the province under Comelec control). Malayo pa ito. This is only an isolated case,” said Gen Jose Mabanta Jr, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines 3rd Infantry Division, told reporters on Thursday, April 4. 

“Certainly, this is an insurgency problem. The body that was left behind is that of Sparrow, an NPA (New People’s Army) person. From all indications, it’s not a political incident. This is an insurgency,” Mabanta added.

Regional police director Chief Supt Agrimero Cruz also said the situation in the province has not met the “parameters” to warrant a “worst-case-scenario.” Among them are intense political rivalry resulting in more than one election-related incident or the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army in the area.

“But as of the moment, wala pa po tayong nakikitang mga ganong sitwasyon na umiiral dito sa Negros Occidental,” Cruz added.

Still, Cruz said they are ready for a worst-case scenario. 

In making the request on Tuesday, April 2, Marañon cited the recent killings of a policeman and police asset, as well as 18 incidents of extra-judicial killings in previous elections. The local campaign period started on Friday, March 29.

Marañon said the killing in Escalante City Monday night emphasized the need for security in the province for the upcoming elections. Eight suspected NPA assassins shot dead Police Officer 1 Bejein Tanguan and police asset Joseph Lutrago, who was considered a campaign leader in the city.

The governor’s fears counters the improved peace-and-order situation that the military, the police, and the local church celebrated in Bacolod City on Thursday, April 4.

AFP Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista himself attended the 5th founding anniversary celebration of the Church-Military and Police Advisory Group – Negros (CMPAG-N). Marañon was supposed to attend the event, but he sent a representative instead.

Negros Occidental, home to almost 1.6 million voters this year, is also one of the remaining bastions of communist insurgency in the Philippines. The officers, however, are confident the situation is under control. –

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