By Jennifer P. Rendon
Thousands of Philippine Army personnel will help secure the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) 2023 in Western and Central Visayas.
The 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division said they have around 11,148 personnel in the two regions.
The unit will deploy 6,741 soldiers to Region 6 and 4,407 in Region 7. The deployments will be complemented with 112 military vehicles.
Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines, 3ID spokesperson, said the troops include military personnel and members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary from the 3ID headquarters based in Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz.
Also part of the contingents are troops from the 301st Infantry Brigade (IB), the 302nd IB and the 303rd IB.
The 3rd ID also has a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) composed of 66 military officers, 721 enlisted personnel, and 155 CAA members with 60 mobility assets strategically positioned in the provinces of Western and Central Visayas
Based on records, Western Visayas has a total of 172 election areas of concern (EACs), or election hotspots, while Central Visayas only has 24.
Ninety-two of these EAC are in Iloilo province; 51 in Negros Occidental; 14 in Capiz; 12 in Antique; two in Aklan; and one in Iloilo City.
On the other hand, there are 13 election hotspots in Bohol; nine in Negros Oriental; and two in Cebu province.
“The resolute and election-ready personnel of the 3ID will bolster other security forces in conducting checkpoints, securing polling precincts, and performing other election-related tasks, particularly in identified EACs in regions 6 and 7,” Javines said.
The Multi-Agency Send-Off and Turnover Ceremony for forces and mobility assets in Western Visayas was held at the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO 6) headquarters in Iloilo City on Oct. 23.
During the ceremony, the 3ID, the PRO-6, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) handed over their respective personnel to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC-6), led by its Regional Director, Atty. Dennis Ausan.
Acceptance of forces and resources, along with the blessing of the troops, followed the handover.
Ausan emphasized unity and collective effort in fulfilling their duty to protect the people’s voice, which they see as a reflection of the Almighty’s will.
“We will vigorously pursue together with one mind and one heart. They say, let us do our best and let God do the rest. This holds extra significance today as we reflect on our duty to protect the people’s voice, which we know is the precious voice of the Almighty. Necessarily then, as protectors, we align the people’s will with that of the Lord, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God,” he said.
Meanwhile, 3ID Commander Major General Marion R. Sison underscored the two months of preparations by security forces for BSKE with the substantial deployment of personnel and mobility assets.
“With these preparations, failure is not an option. We may come from different offices, wear different uniforms, and serve in various units, but we share one common mandate: to ensure honest, orderly, and peaceful elections,” he said.
Sison encouraged the troops to make sure that the voices of the people would be heard.
“No one should be afraid, no one should attempt to intimidate, and no one should be coerced into making payments. Our duty is to ensure the safety of our people and the integrity of the BSKE. It’s not just a promise; it’s a firm commitment to the Filipino people and our nation,” he said.
Similar activity took place at the Headquarters of Police Regional Office 7 in Cebu City. Meanwhile, at the Headquarters of 3ID in Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz, the Division also conducted a send-off ceremony for its personnel to be deployed in far-flung areas declared as EAS using Blackhawk helicopters.
Earlier, AFP Visayas Command Commander, Lt. General Benedict Arevalo, handed over the 181 troops to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Region 7.
Of the 181 security forces, 131 belong to the Joint Task Force Storm of the AFP Visayas Command, 29 are from the Philippine National Police, and 39 are from the Philippine Coast Guard.
The additional troops will reinforce the existing PNP and Army forces, ensuring the orderly and peaceful conduct of the upcoming BSKE in Negros Oriental and to prevent election-related violence, given the history of intense political rivalry in the province.