By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) came to the defense of the Cordillera Police Regional Office (PRO-COR) Monday after a photo of a ranking police official supposedly inspecting vote-counting machines and other election paraphernalia in Baguio City made the rounds in social media.
Brigadier General Israel Dickson, regional director of the Cordillera Police Regional Office (PRO-COR), was seen in a photo seemingly inspecting vote-counting machines (VCMs) and other election paraphernalia at a warehouse of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Baguio City last week.
The photo reached Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who promptly questioned the intention of the police official.
“No one is allowed to inspect our warehouse without permission even if they are directors of PNP. Hey, get out of there,” Guanzon said in a tweet.
Guanzon noted that inspecting election paraphernalia was not included in the mandate of the PNP.
In response, Police Colonel Bernard, PNP spokesperson, said that while the police are not mandated to inspect VCMs and other election paraphernalia, they are tasked to ensure the “overall security” in the upcoming May 13 polls.
“The PNP is in-charge of overall security, including transport of materials and all. I’m confident it was not to inspect the VCMs,” Banac said.
“He just performed his duty and he was given permission. Otherwise, hindi siya pinapasok doon (he was not allowed in there),” the PNP spokesperson added.
Meanwhile, Otso Diretso senatorial candidates Chel Diokno, Romulo Macalintal, Florin Hilbay, Erin Tanada, Gary Alejano and Samira Gutoc questioned the alleged inspection of VCMs and election paraphernalia.
For his part, Dickson said no inspection of VCMs happened when he visited the Comelec warehouse.
“With regard to the purported inspection of VCM hub in Baguio City, this Office had no intention at all to inspect any VCM hub. The purpose of this Office in going to Baguio City was to personally oversee the actual deployment of personnel in relation with election security preparations, Oplan Ligtas Sumvac, and Holy Week Alert; in which the influx of local and foreign tourists are expected to rise,” Dickson told The Manila Bulletin.
“The activity is a regular police function, particularly that the Cordillera Region is on full alert status due to the recent atrocities perpetrated by communist terrorist groups in the region and in some areas in the Visayas and Mindanao,” he added.
The Cordillera police regional director emphasized that he had no intention to inspect the hub, but only the deployed personnel who were securing the establishment.
“It was just a coincidence that during the supervision, the VCMs were being unloaded and no warehouse supervisor from the Comelec was in sight for a coordination to be made,” he explained.
“Therefore, no existing Comelec laws and resolutions were violated,” he insisted.
In a press briefing at Camp Crame in Quezon City early Monday, Police General Oscar Albayalde, PNP Chief, reminded policemen to remain to apolitical and non-partisan.