MANILA: A senior Philippine official has vowed there would be no repeat of the Mindanao massacre of 58 people in late 2009 as the government prepared to ensure fair, honest and violence-free midterm election in May 2013 less than seven months away.
Secretary Mar Roxas 3rd of the Department of Interior and Local Government disclosed the Philippine National Police (PNP) has given top priority in its security preparations in at least 15 provinces described as “high-risk” areas where poll-related violence is likely to occur.
“We will not be caught flat-footed,” Roxas vowed during a media briefing on the preparations on the polls where at stake are positions for 12 senators to be elected nationally as well as provincial and local posts such as congressmen, governors and mayors.
Of the 15 provinces, Roxas said three belong to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) — Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan — due to the presence of “private armies.”
Maguindanao shot into notoriety as the site of the bloodbath involving 58 people including 33 journalists, considered the worst election-related violence in Philippine history on Nov.23, 2009.
The carnage was blamed on members of a powerful and influential clan led by their patriarch former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan who have since been arrested and detained after they were indicted before a Metro Manila regional court for multiple murder on 58 counts.
Roxas who took over as the country’s interior minister following the death in a plane crash of then secretary Jesse Robredo said the PNP would intensify police operations particularly against politicians and their private armies in the high-risk areas.
“Even before the start of the election period in late January or early February next year, we want our people to know that the elections under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquno will be safe, fair and orderly and would represent the true will of the people,” Roxas assured.
“The interior department and the national police,” he added, “will not allow any parties to use them (private armies). There will be no sacred cows, regardless of parties and color of their vests.”