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Armed encounters won’t affect elections

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN

Troopers of the 79th Infantry Battalion have been dispatched to augment the police in maintaining peace and order during the May 9 elections in northern Negros.*PA photo

Sporadic gunbattles between government forces and suspected New People’s Army rebels in some areas of Negros Occidental will have no effect in the conduct of May 9 elections, disclosed yesterday by Provincial Comelec supervisor Atty. Roberto Salazar Jr.

Salazar said that gunbattles took place in the hinterlands, and were a product of the clearing operations of the Philippine Army.

The latest armed skirmishes took place in Brgy. Gatuslao, Candoni, Negros Occidental, where a teenaged NPA warrior died while an Army soldier was injured.

In previous weeks, Army soldiers also figured in series of encounters with suspected rebels in the hinterlands of Himamaylan City, Isabela and Cauayan in Negros Occidental, as well as Guihulngan City, Sibulan and Santa Catalina in Negros Oriental.

Salazar said that clearing operations were conducted to preempt any possible untoward incidents that may occur, several days before or during the May 9 elections.

For security reasons or lack of transportation, the release of official ballots to some barangays in 21 Negros Occidental towns and cities will on May 6, he added.

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade and Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office are mobilizing more than 3,200 soldiers and policemen to ensure peaceful and orderly elections on May 9 in the province.

Nineteen of the 32 towns and cities in Negros Occidental have been classified by the Comelec as election areas of concerns due to intense political rivalry, history of election related incidents, existence of private armed groups and presence of NPA rebels.

It’s all system go for the May 9 elections in the province, declared Salazar.

The COMELEC is scheduled to conduct the final testing and sealing of vote counting machines on May 7.

Salazar said they have 52 standby VCMs for Monday’s polls, in case of malfunctions.*

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