BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – State troopers in the region, including those in this sugar-producing capital of the country have been told to crush the remaining terrorist insurgents after the holding of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls described by a top regional Army official as “successful.”
That assessment of Major General Marion Sison, commander of the Army’s Third Infantry Division was shared by Brigadier General Orlando Edralin, an Army brigade commander, and police provincial chief, Colonel Leo Pamittan who both reported that no violent or significant incident marred the conduct of the polls on the eve of Halloween 2023.
The nationwide election yeaterday, 31 October 2023, is the first to be held since 2018 and sought to put in place a fresh set of officers for the youth and village councils at the smallest political unit of the Philippines.
It is also the first barangay poll held since President Rodrigo Duterte adopted the whole of nation approach against the Communist insurgency in the country amid previous attempts by rebels to influence the outcome by letting candidates influenced by them run or by terrorizing those not allied with them.
“The success of BSKE 2023 is a testament to your true character, excellent service, professionalism, and high standard of discipline. Thus, we were able to smoothly execute what we had planned and prepared for, ensuring the peaceful exercise of people’s right to suffrage. Once again, we proved our worth as the protector of the constitution,” Sison was quoted as saying in a dispatch sent by Division publicist Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines.
As he praised his troops, Sison also urged them to “move forward to dismantle the remainimg guerrilla fronts” of the Communist rebels, formerly called the New People’s Army but now commonly referred to by the Army as those under the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG).
Sison said they will not “… allow the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) to create a breathing space and recover.”
The Army had earlier beefed up its troops in the island and reconfigured its forces, among them placing units in the entire province under the operational control of the 303rd Brigade while those in the Oriental side were placed under its counterpart, the 302nd commanded by Brigadier General Joey Escanillas.
Edralin got control of the 15th Infantry Battalion and the Alpha Company of the 47th Infantry Battalion during the polls for faster command and control of the maneuver infantry units.
They will be back to the one battallion-one rebel front configuration, however, to speed up the dismantling of the remaining rebel units that Sison had earlier reported to have dwindled to only two but weakened ones – the Central Negros Front 2 and the South East Front.
The others are classified to have been dismantled – including the mother unit of Ka Frank Fernandez, Central Negros 1, and the South West Front.
Pamittan said no violent incidents have been reported even in the towns of Calatrava in the north and Moises Padilla in the south where there are red areas of concern.
Under the poll body’s classification systwm, red is a “grave area of concern” where some factors exist like presence of private armed groups, intense political rivalry, and history of election-related violence.
Edralin, on the other hand, said there have been no sightings of private armed groups during election day and no poll-related violent incident took place.
He said the Army had quick reaction forces across the province and had prepared well before the polls to make election day safe and secure in line with their mandate.
The Air Force had also forward deployed two Blackhawk helicopters to Camp Leon Kilat in Negros Oriental to beef up the firepower and attack capability of ground forces.