LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 5 (PNA) -- With the rising number of killings involving village officials and other political leaders in towns and villages tagged as political hot spots in Masbate, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol regional office on Thursday sent a battalion of elite police unit to prevent the growing political tension prevailing in that Bicol island-province.
Police Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, PNP Bicol spokesperson, said a battalion of police force coming from the newly reactivated Regional Service-Oriented Task Group (RSOTG) arrived on the same after the PNP Central Command and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) issued the green light for the RSOTG to prevent political violence that might disrupt and mar the May elections.
Calubaquib said the special task group was created to ensure that peace and order will reign in the province that was declared by the Comelec as among the priority provinces in the election watch-list areas (EWAs).
Police Chief Supt. Augusto Marquez, PNP Bicol regional director, assigned Police Senior Supt. Lito Pitallano, deputy regional director for operation (DRDO), as commander of the RSOTG.
The RSOTG will provide security measures that would be needed during the election period.
The group will also track down loose firearms holders and private armed groups (PAGs), including the communist rebel group operating in the province.
The battalion-size PNP task force came from the police forces from Bicol’s six provinces, Regional Public Safety Battalion and a company of Special Action Force unit from the PNP national headquarters, Calubaquib said.
Meanwhile, another sizable unit of the Philippine Army will join the RSOTG to enhance the security force of the task group. A series of killings has taken place since January to date, the police reported, bringing the death toll to seven persons gunned down by unidentified assailants in the towns of San Jacinto, Placer, Monreal and Masbate City.
In the 2013 Election, the TF Masbate was formed to oversee the security operations in the province tagged by military and police as a “hot spot” area due to intense political rivalries and the presence of PAGs and communist rebels.
Masbate has been consistently been tagged as an election hot spot in previous elections because of the intense political rivalries among clans there, including election-related violence, that have claimed the lives of hundreds of people in the province.
In past election events, the Comelec and the PNP have identified the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte as election areas of concern due to intense political rivalries and the presence of PAGs and the NPA rebels.
Based on the list, Masbate has the most number of villages that have been placed under Comelec control, with 40 villages in 18 towns. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/cbd