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Comelec deputizes PNP, AFP, DILG for safe 2013 polls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has deputized the military and police as their partners in ensuring safe elections in 2013. According to its Resolution Number 9571, a copy of which was obtained by GMA News Online, the poll body ruled that “there is a need to deputize… law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, and to prescribe their duties and functions as deputized agencies.” Aside from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Comelec has also partnered with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in securing next year's elections. Commissioner Elias Yusoph, chairman of the committee on the ban on firearms and security personnel, said Comelec will be in charge of monitoring the duties of their deputy agencies. “They are under our supervision during the election period. They are our deputies and they guard the command for us, while we supervise them,” Yusoph told GMA News Online. He said this has been the usual set-up during the elections. “The AFP and the PNP had been our partners in election. They are in charge of peace and order situation and implementation of gun ban ban during the elections,” Yusoph said. The Comelec has also enforced a total gun ban during the elections, with some groups exempted due to the need for security and protection during the elections. The Comelec is also exempted from the gun ban. Yusoph said the Comelec would allocate from its own budget about P700 million for the deputization. He, however, said they have yet to settle how the budget would be allocated to the deputized agencies. “But that should be divided equally between PNP and the AFP,” Yusoph said. He said the Comelec also needs to be armed for protection because of the nature of their work. The poll commission is not exempted from election-related violence in the past. Basilan election officer Daryl Kinazo was shot dead on August 11 this year after supervising the conduct of voters’ registration for persons with disabilities in Latuan Town, Isabela City. Another employee, Romualdo Palispis, an election assistant in Aurora, was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen in front of his house on June 30.   Meanwhile, lawyer Marychelle Belmes, a provincial election supervisor in Abra, has reportedly been receiving death threats. She has sought and was allowed police protection by the Abra Police Provincial Office. In November 2009, lawyer Michael Valdez, provincial election supervisor in Isabela, was gunned down by unidentified assailants at a hotel in Tumauini town. In 2007, Comelec legal department head Alioden Dalaig was shot dead outside a casino hotel in Malate. A year later, in March 2008, Wynne Asdala, who was the acting director of the Comelec law department after Dalaig was killed, was shot dead while returning to the Comelec office after a lunch break “If you are with the commission, there is always that assumption of risk. Nobody can say that he is secured. Because this is our work and it is the trust of the people and we are accountable to the people and especially to God,” Yusoph said. According to resolution number 9570 and 9570, the common duties of the PNP and the AFP are: 1. Provide security to polling places, polling centers/voting center, etc. 2. Provide security to the personnel of the Comelec, its deputies and other persons performing election-related functions 3. Deploy, at the last time possible, troops for election duty in coordination with the Regional Election Director and the Provincial Election Supervisor 4. Make available at the least time possible land, air and water-craft assets, communication systems and other equipment, in connection with the delivery and retrieval of election equipment, documents, supplies, forms and paraphernalia 5. Look into the existence of any armed groups suspected of committing terrorism 6. Assist the Comelec in implementing election-related rules and regulations 7. Provide security escorts to candidates 8. Conduct periodic assessment of the peace and order conditions in critical areas Including those mentioned above, the duties of the DILG’s agencies PNP with the National Police Commission are: 1. Effect no changes in the PNP assignments of PNP personnel during election period without prior permission of Comelec 2. Make effective measure to prevent members of civilian vigilante units and barangay tanods from engaging in partisan political activities or any act of terrorism, intimidation, coercion, harassment or reprisal 3. Take steps to prevent private security agencies from acting as private armies of any candidate The PNP had earlier identified 15 “high risk” areas for the elections, namely Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, and Basilan. — Marc Jayson Cayabyab/KBK, GMA News