By Genalyn Kabiling, Aaron Recuenco, and Martin Sadongdong
The government is prepared to secure the midterm elections next week, ensure a stable power supply around the country, and provide allowance to teachers serving poll duties.
Preparations of concerned government agencies for the May 13 elections have been discussed by President Duterte and the Cabinet in Malacañang Monday, according to Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.
“The Department of National Defense assured that the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are ready to secure the 2019 elections,” Panelo said in a statement released Tuesday.
“Security forces are already deployed especially in election hot spots to prevent occurrence of any violence,” he added.
Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has committed 70 percent of the military strength, which translates to 98,000 soldiers, for deployment to secure voting precincts, especially in hotspot areas.
“Most of our forces have already been pre-deployed in preparation for the elections,” said Madrigal.
“Some troops in combat mode will also shift to election mode although our regular and non-combat operations will continue as necessary,” Madrigal added.
On the other hand, Police General Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, said the PNP has laid out all the necessary security measures and is “nearly 100 percent prepared” for the May 13 national and local elections.
Albayalde stressed this at the send-off ceremony for 149,830 police personnel who will serve as security forces for the midterm polls.
“Our troops are ready for the job. While we expect security threats to continue and lawless elements to disrupt the elections in some areas, I must say we are fully prepared to face and address challenges that may come our way,” Albayalde said, adding that the entire police force is now under the highest security alert status.
President Duterte had earlier ordered the military and police to assist the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ensure free, peaceful, and credible midterm elections.
The military and police have also been directed to remain neutral during the elections. Duterte told the security forces not to take sides or campaign for any candidate and instead to focus on ensuring peaceful, free and credible elections.
Apart from tackling the security measures, Panelo said the Department of Energy has assured the country would have a “sufficient” supply of power in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
The energy department made the assurance apparently to dispel concerns about alleged low power reserve in Luzon that might impact the credibility of the upcoming automated elections.
Teachers who will serve on Election Day will receive honoraria and travel allowance based on a report from the Department of Education, Panelo said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, meantime, expects a higher voter turnout for overseas absentee voting, Panelo added.