The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed more than 10,000 troops in Mindanao to help ensure the peaceful holding of the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
AFP chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. yesterday said 10,400 soldiers are now deployed in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela in Basilan to help secure the area for the 21 January plebiscite.
“We still have on standby (these troops) to ensure the peaceful conduct of the plebiscite,” said Madrigal, who will personally visit military units in the area to ensure their readiness.
Madrigal said according to AFP-Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Arnel de la Vega, the number of troops deployed is sufficient to address any contingencies.
“The AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) are prepared for contingencies if ever,” Madrigal said.
In particular, he said government security forces are on the lookout against threat groups and the “peace spoilers” operating in Mindanao.
“We have laid out all security measures. Martial law is in effect and we have added security measures and intelligence monitoring of these groups,” Madrigal said.
Madrigal added the AFP is closely working with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for proper coordination with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MILF is pushing for the ratification of the BOL which is the result of its decades-long peace negotiations with the government. Leaders of the MILF gave assurance they are committed to the peaceful conduct of the plebiscite and vowed to respect its results.
Earlier, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde had said a battalion of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) will be sent to Cotabato City for the plebiscite.
It will be recalled that last New Year’s Eve a bomb attack erupted at a shopping mall in Cotabato City –killing two persons while dozens of others were injured. There were suspicions the bombing was meant to derail the ratification of the BOL.