Albayalde, men deserve kudos for scoring many firsts in 2019 polls

HAVING covered the Philippine National Police for 30 years now and at least 10 presidential and national elections, I doff my hats  to General Oscar Albayalde and his men for scoring many firsts  in last Monday’s national and local polls, actually record highs in the PNP’s 28-year fabled history. I really give credit to the PNP’s long preparation for the polls. As they always say, ‘it wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.’

First, this is the first time that the PNP indeed launched an honest-to-goodness crackdown against vote-buying and selling leading to the arrest of 297 persons as a result of 332 vote-buying incidents, one of which even led to the apprehension of defeated Quezon City mayoralty candidate Bingbong Crisologo.

There is also a great reduction in election-related incidents in the country specially in traditional political powderkegs like Abra, Masbate and many parts of Mindanao. This is also the 1st time I believe in the PNP’s history that a sitting PNP chief ordered an all-out campaign to ferret out the presence of policemen who are providing unauthorized security to politicians and candidates.

I learned that following a directive from the PNP chief and his order for the PNP Counter-Intelligence Task Force headed by Colonel Bong Caramat to go after cops who are acting as security to candidates and politicians without official authority from the Comelec, all concerned officials were forced to toe the line. The result, only three policemen were accosted by the PNP-CITF and none before and during E-Day.

Credit should also go to Gen. Albayalde’s Command Group particularly his Deputy Chief for Operations and head of the National Task Force NHQ HOPE, Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa and the 17 PNP regional directors who saw to it that there would be a massive crackdown against vote-buying in their areas apart from making sure that partisan armed groups and their loose weapons and other lawless elements would be on the run. For the record, police since last January 13 have seized over 5,000 guns from gun ban violators, all weapons that could have been used to disrupt the polls.

Imagine, this is the 1st major election in which the PNP and the Armed Forces effectively prevented the Abu Sayyaf Group, the New People’s Army and other lawless elements in hundreds of traditional election areas of concern in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao form making any moves to disrupt the polls, meaning there were no ballot snatching, harassment, gun attacks etc. except for the lone incident in Jones, Isabela where two known members of a partisan armed group seized and burned two VCMs and some 200 ballots, according to Cagayan Valley police director, Brigadier General Jomar Espino.

The key here is preparation and the involvement of the AFP, all other law enforcement agencies and concerned government units and the public as well. As Gen. Gamboa had told me, their preparations started as early as the 2nd semester of 2018.

Another key is President Duterte’s full support to the PNP’s capability- enhancement program which greatly improved the force’s capability to ensure a fair, safe and secured polls. This is the 1st time in the PNP history that the PNP has three brand-new helicopters and well on its way to filling-up its ‘move, shoot, communicate and investigate’ capability.

The PNP chief also credited the special task force against vote-buying created by Department of the  Interior and Local Government Secretary Ed  Año in their significant accomplishments against ‘buying and selling’ of votes.

I agree with him on the reasons why vote-buying increased before last Monday’s polls. First, candidates resorted to vote-buying since the ‘incorruptible’  Vote  Counting Machines of the Comelec and their automated election process cannot be cheated anymore.

2nd, up to now, no candidate has been suspended or jailed for vote-buying. “It’s always the seller or buyers of votes. It would really be very hard to prove that a candidate is engaged in vote-buying,” he told me. The PNP chief agreed with President Duterte when he said that vote-buying has become a ‘culture’ in the country which should be totally eradicated by Year 2022.

Now that the election is over, I join the PNP leadership in calling on all losing candidates to humbly accept their defeat and respect the outcome of the election and the voters’ decision.

Come to think of it, the PNP recorded a 60 percent reduction in the number of ERIs last Monday with 73 victims compared to the 106 incidents with 192 victims in the last 2016 National and Local Elections. On vote buying, a total of 225 incidents were recorded leading to the arrest of 441 violators and eight rescued minors.

On E-Day, the PNP also recorded 41 incidents ranging from commotion, mauling, attempted murder, and shooting incidents although police are still investigating if these incidents were ERIs or not.

Gen. Gamboa told me their barometer in declaring a successful election is only one: that there would be no failure of election in any part of the country. “This would mean that polling centers are opened on time, all voters who are voting (because some would opt not  to vote) are able to vote and polling centers are also closed on time because this would mean timely transmission. And finally, the return of all Comelec materials to the Treasurers’ Office. I believe all of them were answered last Monday.