Mission to curb armed groups in Mindanao ongoing

By Priam Nepomuceno

March 20, 2019, 12:09 pm

MANILA -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will just continue its mission of suppressing armed groups in Mindanao to ensure the peaceful conduct of mid-term elections in May.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato made the remark Wednesday when asked on what security adjustments the military will make following the declaration of the entire island as an election hotspot by the Commission of Elections (Comelec).

"We will just continue our current mission that is, run after armed groups in Jolo, Basilan, Central Mindanao and parts of Surigao and Davao to ensure that the election will push through peacefully and voters can cast their votes and express themselves," he said in a message to the Philippine News Agency.

Also, Detoyato said all AFP units in Mindanao are maintaining established checkpoints to protect growth areas in tandem with mobile checkpoints to catch violators who are evading checkpoints off guard.

"The Unified Commands and Joint Task Forces in Mindanao have the prerogative to relocate, detach and attach units to address the ever changing security situation especially during the intense campaign period. The AFP units in Mindanao, while accomplishing their counter-insurgency mission and anti-terrorism operations will also take the cue from Comelec when it is an election related administrative movement or security operation," he stressed.

In line with this, Detoyato said AFP units implementing the martial law are still gaining headway with the cooperation of the local government officials in the surrender and confiscation of loose firearms.

"We are also taking this opportunity to thank the Mindanawans for the overwhelming support to our martial law implementers and the cooperation they extend in the checkpoints. The (AFP) Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, expresses his profound thanks to all the AFP units in Mindanao for the excellent accomplishments in the past few days against the different enemies of the state and to the (Mindanaoans) who are all out in support to the government’s local peace efforts," he added.

Aside from Mindanao, the poll body also declared the entire province of Abra and the towns of Jones in Isabela and Lope de Vega in Northern Samar as areas of grave concern.

The decision to declare the four areas as election hotspots was based on cases of poll-related violence in the past two electoral exercises, as well other threats from insurgent groups. (PNA)