By Carolyn O. Arguillas, MindaNews and VERA Files
PARANG, Maguindanao – The Philippine National Police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has come up with creative ways to help ensure there is no failure of election, including deploying an all-women provisional company to Lanao del Sur, Chief Supt. Noel delos Reyes, chief of the Police Regional Office-ARMM, said.
“One of the innovations we’re doing right now, based on past experiences, is to come up with a provisional all-female company,” delos Reyes told MindaNews in his office late Tuesday afternoon.
He said based on experiences in previous elections, some women were reported to have started the trouble that eventually led to the declaration of a failure of election in their areas.
“Eh hindi mo naman pwedeng hawakan yung babae, bawal yan (But [if you’re a male policeman], you cannot touch the women, that’s prohibited) so we are coming up with a provisional all-female company,” he explained.
He said the all-women team would be about a hundred. They have been identified and are ready for deployment.
Delos Reyes said the women will be deployed initially in the Quick Reaction Forces which would be moving around on election day.
He said experiences in past elections also showed that trouble also ensues when voters deliberately prolong the period for lining up so that the others in the queue cannot vote.
When a failure of election is declared in an area, a special election will be held at a later date.
Another practice in past elections that led to the declaration of failure of election was the non-appearance of members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs).
To address this problem, delos Reyes said they identified 750 policemen for training as BEI member. They will be deployed on standby in case the BEIs assigned to the precincts do not show up, he said.
Delos Reyes said the 750 policemen who will be trained as BEIs will be coming from the neighboring regions – 9 (Zamboanga region or Western Mindanao), 10 (Northern Mindanao) and 12 (Southwestern Mindanao which is often refered to as Soccksksargen).
Those who will be deployed to BaSulTa (Basilan, Sulu,Tawi-tawi) will be coming from Region 9; while police personnel from Region 10 and 12 will be deployed to Lanao del Sur.
Records of the Commission on Elections in the ARMM as of January 21, 2013 show that of the 1.3 million voters in the ARMM, the vote-richest province is Maguindanao with 439,455 followed by Lanao del Sur with 350,269. Sulu has 249,289; Basilan has 136,383 and Tawi-tawi has 125,084.
According to the “Consolidated Project of Precincts” of Comelec-Maguindanao, Maguindanao has 439,678 registered voters.
The ARMM has 7,000 police personnel. But delos Reyes said they need 13,000 forces to deploy and have coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He said they have also asked the main headquarters for an augmentation force of about 700 police personnel.
(ARMM WATCH is a project of VERA Files in partnership withMindaNews and I-Watch. It is supported by The Asia Foundation and Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)