Saturday, May 12, 2018

Army continues anti-insurgency operations as polls draw near

From the Philippine News Agency (May 11): Army continues anti-insurgency operations as polls draw near

A ranking official of the Philippine Army in Negros Island on Friday assured that they would be conducting continuous anti-insurgency operations as Monday’s Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections draws nearer.

Col. Eliezer Lozañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, disclosed Friday that even prior to the upcoming polls, they have been relentlessly operating against the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the island.

He said that the Army will be conducting combat operations in areas tagged as election hotspots due to the presence of the NPA.

“We will be operating in the so-called areas of concern and we will be augmenting the Philippine National Police (PNP),” he said.

Lozañes declined to comment specifically on which areas in Negros Oriental were under “Code Red”, one of three categories set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to determine if a barangay or an area is considered an “election hotspot” or not.

According to him, it is the Comelec who has the prerogative to make the disclosures, even though the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) make the recommendations, as both are under the operational control of the poll body.

But he admitted there are, indeed, areas in Negros Oriental that are under the “red category”.

The Comelec had recently announced it would be using a color-coding scheme in this year’s elections.

Election hotspots under Code Red are in a “critical situation” with a history of election-related violent incidents, intense political rivalry, and the presence of armed groups.

Code Orange means areas that have the presence of armed groups, such as the NPA, and those under Code Yellow would be having a history of political unrest, he said.

“We are continuously monitoring and validating reports of the presence of the NPA in certain areas tagged as hotspots,” the Army colonel said.

While the NPA may attempt to disrupt Monday’s elections, Col. Lozañes said he believes that the recent attacks carried out by the group is more likely aimed at using these as a leverage to show that they are still a force to reckon with.

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