MANILA, Philippines – The military will be placed on red alert starting today as part of security preparations for the May 10 elections.
Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)–Task Force HOPE (Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections), said the red alert status will be implemented until May 20 to allow the military to monitor the security situation in the field.
“The red alert will start at 8 a.m. It will be nationwide. We will start the manning of our (HOPE) operations center and that is the signal for us to start implementing our security operations,” Nepomuceno said.
A red alert means that all the military personnel should be readily available for deployment anytime. Such alert level would also entail the cancellation of all leaves to ensure adequate manpower.
Nepomuceno said the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the citizen arm of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), would send representatives to the HOPE operations center to enhance the gathering of poll-related updates.
He said the agreement with the PPCRV would allow HOPE to get feedback on the security issues on the precinct level.
The HOPE operation center would be located at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City and will be open to the media.
The PPCRV, as the Comelec’s deputized citizen arm, has been authorized to monitor the results of the May 10 elections. This is intended to promote transparency and accountability in the conduct of the polls.
The AFP is not allowed to engage in partisan politics but has been tasked to provide security during the transport of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to polling precincts nationwide.
In fact, heavily armed police and military forces were already deployed in strategic areas of Metro Manila yesterday to ensure the safe delivery of the PCOS machines.
Joint elements of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) and the AFP’s National Capital Region Command (NCRCom) in full battle gear were seen securing vehicles transporting 7,555 PCOS machines, 6.13 million ballots and ballot boxes and election paraphernalia to 743 precincts in Metro Manila.
NCRPO chief Director Roberto Rosales said the police and NCRCom vehicles securing the delivery trucks had global positioning system (GPS) devices for monitoring purposes.
The central hub is being secured by eight NCRPO and 15 NCRCom personnel who barred police officials and journalists who cannot produce access cards issued by Smartmatic from entering.
PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, on the other hand, said that agencies like the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Energy (DOE), Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the local government units (LGU) help in the implementation of safety measures during the polls.
“All other government agencies cannot afford to be mere bystanders in this historic and very important national exercise. Everyone has a moral obligation and duty to choose a new set of national and local leaders in an honest and orderly manner,” said Verzosa.
Because of this overwhelming effort by the AFP and the PNP, Malacañang expressed confidence that their respective members would remain professional and not allow themselves to be influenced by partisan groups.
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said the soldiers and policemen would remain true to their oath to defend democracy.
“Let us remember even in election time despite attacks on the integrity of certain individuals, the fact is the AFP and the police have performed their jobs in securing the elections and affirming our democratic exercises even beyond the call of duty,” Saludo told a news briefing.
He said the Armed Forces and the PNP play a key role in ensuring the success of the elections.
Old generals support Noynoy
Meanwhile, a group of retired military and police officers yesterday expressed support for the candidacy of Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and vowed to guard against cheating in the upcoming May 10 polls.
In a statement, the group claiming to be EDSA 1986 veterans said Aquino can implement genuine reforms in the government and provide solutions to the problems plaguing the county.
“Many of us in recent years followed our ailing President Cory Aquino in her crusade to change a more oppressive, corrupt regime and unite the Filipino people in a fight for true reforms in ourselves, in our institutions and in our national character,” the statement read.
“Our beloved President Cory is now in the heavens but the torch of this crusade is now passed to her son, Senator “Noynoy” Aquino, who is seeking the presidency in 2010 to effect the reforms that all Filipinos are longing for,” it added.
“We would like to inform our people that we are now prepared to protect the votes of every Filipino and to ensure that these votes will be counted. We will see to it that the PNP and armed forces will do their duty,” he said.
Montaño said they will also remind those in active service to be faithful to their duties and to remain non-partisan.
He said they have learned their lesson in 2004 when they backed the candidacy of the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., the closest rival of President Arroyo in the presidential race.
“If we know how we were cheated last time, we know how to counter it,” Montaño said. – Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero