Ricardo Nepomuceno

AFP offers to help deliver flash cards

AFP offers to help deliver flash cards

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is ready to help the Commission Elections (Comelec) deliver the compact flash cards of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) in time for the May 10 elections.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman of the AFP’s Task Force HOPE (Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections), said the Comelec can tap the military’s aircraft and vehicles to deliver the compact flash cards.

“We could do that if requested by the Comelec so we can meet the schedule. We are willing to help,” Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Under Comelec rules, Nepomuceno said the military’s sole task is to help secure the holding of the elections. This includes providing security escorts when election materials are being transported.

Nepomuceno explained that election rules also allow the Comelec to use the military’s assets to transport the election materials as a last resort.

“In areas that are not accessible by ordinary vehicles, areas that can be reached only by walking, we can deliver those materials using our air assets to assist them (Comelec). But that has to be requested (by the Comelec),” the officer said. “We just want to assist in the delivery (of the compact flash cards) to meet the deadline of May 7,” he said.

Nepomuceno said if military assets are tapped to play the primary role of transporting the compact flash cards, soldiers will keep their hands off from the memory cards in compliance with standing election rules.

“If ever the Comelec requests for the use of our assets, they (poll officials) should always be there (to supervise the transportation). We are not supposed to be the only ones doing the transporting. The (poll officials) should be the ones handling them (compact flash cards),” he said.

Nepomuceno said the military was concerned after the reported malfunctioning of the PCOS machines because the incident has a direct impact on the military’s security plan for this year’s elections.

“It’s impossible that we will not be concerned because that would affect our planning for security. Our planning is there at the level of the local joint security coordination centers. Now, they have to adopt minor adjustments on the timing and of course the mode of transportation,” he said.

Nepomuceno said all systems are in place to address possible violence that may erupt.

Though soldiers trained in civil disturbance management have also been deployed in strategic areas, he said he doubts that armed violence will take place on election day.

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls

AFP on red alert in preparation for May 10 polls
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

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

20,800 soldiers, cops vote manually today

20,800 soldiers, cops vote manually today
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – More than 19,000 soldiers and 1,800 policemen are expected to vote ahead of the May 10 elections in major military camps and police stations nationwide, starting today until Friday, as part of the government’s absentee voting program.

Today, Navy personnel in the Western Mindanao Command and the Southern Luzon Command will cast their ballots.

Tomorrow, officers and airmen in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City will go through the electoral exercise.

Absentee voting for soldiers in Metro Manila will be held at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Friday.

Other military units have yet to announce their schedule of voting as of last night.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the selected polling centers nationwide are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on those three days.

These will be located in police stations, military camps, and government offices, he added.

Absentee voters will cast their ballots manually because it would be costly to automate for a small number of voters, Sarmiento said.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, AFP Task Force HOPE (Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections) spokesman, said the Comelec has approved the request of 19,722 absentee voters in the Armed Forces.

“We would like to announce that the local absentee voting for AFP personnel would be anytime between April 28 to 30,” he said.

Nepomuceno said 1,420 soldiers assigned in Metro Manila are expected to cast their ballots in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

“Other than here (Camp Aguinaldo), we have the major camps, the Air Force and Navy, they have also their voting places,” he said.

“We will allow all of them to vote. I think we are encouraging all service commanders to ensure that all those who applied for absentee voting would be able to cast their votes.”

Absentee voting will not apply to soldiers assigned in places where they are registered voters, Nepomuceno said.

Data from the military showed 958 absentee voters in the Cordillera Administrative Region, 100 in Ilocos Region, 486 in Cagayan Valley, 1,451 in Central Luzon, 2,128 in Bicol, 5,100 in Southern Tagalog and the entire Visayas, 1,106 in Zamboanga Peninsula, 1,475 in Northern Mindanao, 1,041 in the Davao Region, and 4,457 in SOCCSKSARGEN, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and CARAGA Region.

Only 1,800 policemen in absentee voting

However, only 1,800 of the 130,000 policemen nationwide were allowed to take part in absentee voting today and until Friday.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina, Philippine National Police spokesman, said the Comelec denied the request of the 128,200 policemen because they had failed to vote in the past two elections.

“A total of 1,800 police personnel will participate in absentee voting in different regions,” he said.

Espina said absentee voting for policemen will not take place in Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Cordillera Administrative Region, and the ARMM.

The policemen will vote manually, not shade oblongs beside the names of candidates, he added.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa will not avail of absentee voting because he will attend a meeting of the Bishop-Ulama Conference, Espina said.

Military vehicles banned from transporting ballots

The Comelec has banned police and military vehicles from transporting ballots and other election material to be used in the May10 elections.

In Resolution 8823, the poll body said election paraphernalia, including the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, ballot boxes and official ballots can no longer be transported in police and military vehicles.

However, the Comelec said exemptions can be made in extreme cases on condition that an official request letter would be sent to the elections official assigned in the area where the emergency occurred.

Transport of ballots and the counting machines is the responsibility of Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp., according to the poll body.

The Comelec said the police and military shall not participate in the physical handling of any election paraphernalia and equipment to avoid suspicion of involvement in rigging of election results.

However, policemen and soldiers will remain in charge of providing security to the PCOS machines, accessories, and official ballots and other election paraphernalia while in transit, the poll body added.

The Comelec said the police and military shall also be responsible for perimeter security in all hubs and sub hubs in coordination with the regional/provincial/city Joint Security Control Centers and the election officer concerned.

Police and the military will also provide security to polling centers, members of the Board of Election Inspectors, and accredited citizens’ arm volunteers before the arrival of the PCOS machines and accessories at the polling precincts, the poll body added.

AFP to set up operations hub

Meanwhile, AFP Task Force HOPE will set up an operation hub in Camp Aguinaldo to monitor poll-related violent incidents.

Nepomuceno said the operation center would allow them to oversee the security situation nationwide and to coordinate with regional joint security coordinating centers.

“We are preparing the operations center of Task Force HOPE,” he said.

“It would facilitate the exchange of information on, before, and after the election. It would be more efficient if we open our contact numbers here.”

The operation center is scheduled to be launched on April 30.

It will feature facilities like computers that media practitioners can use to file their stories, television monitors, and telephone units. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Mayen Jaymalin, Maria Ana Saet, Carra Callen Tamayo