Soldiers from UN Peacekeeping Mission Arrives in Masbate

Monday, April 19th, 2010

NAGA CITY (16 April) -Two hundred fifty soldiers from the Philippine Army and Philippine Navy arrived in Masbate City this morning to assist in maintaining peace and order in the island province during this election period.

The soldiers were the same contingents sent to Haiti and Liberia last year to help in the peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations.

They were accompanied by Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit, Major General Eric Javier, director of integrated police operation in Southern Luzon, and other top police officials.

"This battalion is primarily tasked to ensure the conduct of credible and peaceful elections in this province," said Major General Ruperto Pabustan, commander of Army in the Bicol Region.

"It (battalion) will be put under the supervision of the Special Task Force (STF) Masbate to augment the [earlier-deployed] Army contingent which supports the efforts of the PNP", he added.

The newly-deployed soldiers were recognized for their relief and rescue efforts after the earthquake that rocked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and other parts of the impoverished country.

Masbate Governor Elisa Olga Kho welcomed the contingents together with representatives from various sectors including media practitioners and members of the local chapter of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

Earlier, joint police and military operatives under the name Special Task Force (STF)   Masbate were deployed in the province to preempt election-related violence.

Masbate province was placed under special police watch due to suppose presence of partisan armed groups and its history of political violence.

The Commission on Elections also considers the province as an election hotspot.

In 2004, there were 22 recorded election-related violence. In 2007, there were 18. 2004 and 2007 were election years.

STF Masbate has recorded six election-related violence as of today, an Army report said.

Twelve members of partisan armed groups also had been arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

Three of the arrested PAGs members were village chiefs.