Cops told: Secure government officials

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PROTECT elected and appointed government officials at all cost.

This was the order given by Philippine National Police chief, Director General Jesus A. Verzosa to all PNP regional and provincial directors in the wake of increasing attacks on government officials in the countryside.

According to Verzosa, all police ground commanders must provide necessary security protection to national and local government officials visiting their areas on official business or other purposes amid an increase on the number of government officials being targeted for assassination either by hired guns, communist New People’s Army or Muslim insurgents.

In a memorandum, PNP Director for Operations, Director Andres G. Caro II said Gen. Verzosa also ordered all police commanders to ‘extend utmost assistance to national and local government officials seeking police protection and security.’

Caro said the PNP had already documented a total of 36 violent incidents committed against elected and appointed government officials since January this year. Most of the victims were believed to have been attacked by hired assassins or NPA guerrillas across the country.

Caro said all 17 police regional directors were told to “extend utmost assistance to all national officials who will be requesting security assistance in their visit in your respective areas of responsibility.”

“Political rivalries appear to be heating-up already as violent incidents victimizing local government officials have been reported from January to this date,” Caro said.

Last May, Gen. Verzosa ordered the activation of Task Group EGO or Elected Government Officials which shall be responsible for the immediate resolution of all previous violent incidents against elected government officials.

The move was in line with the instructions of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to initiate measures to prevent and put an end to violence against politicians and elected government officials.

Task Group EGO is organized as a component of National Task Force “HOPE 2010” earlier organized to direct and supervise police operations to prevent pre-election violence and ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections in 2010.

Verzosa said the PNP will intensify law enforcement, security and public safety operations to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections in 2010.

“In order to prevent the occurrence of violent incidents that may disrupt the holding of HOPE 2010, there is a need for the PNP to intensify law enforcement, security and public safety operations before, during and after the elections,” he said.

The PNP recorded a total of 249 Election–Related Violent Incidents or ERVIs during the 2004 national elections, resulting in the killing of 41 politicians and the wounding of 18 others; and 229 ERVI in the last 2007 election wherein 37 politicians were killed and 24 others were wounded.