Ensuring Peaceful Elections: 53IB Secures People’s Safety While They Exercise Right to Suffrage

(53IB photo: Troops of the Philippine Army’s 53rd Infantry “Matapat” Battalion (53IB) led by 1Lt. Luke Creighton Patacsil and Zamboanga del Sur 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company (2nd PMFC) led by PMaj. Bernie Barnardino and PMaj. Marlon Mangan-ay conduct convoy and security to seven container vans containing Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) on May 3, 2022, to be used for the upcoming National and Local Elections 2022 come May 9. The VMCs were properly turned over to COMELEC-ZDS on May 4, 2022, at 1:30 AM.)

The challenge to ensure the people’s safety while exercising their right to suffrage in the recently concluded national and local elections held on May 9, 2022, faced the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) deputized law enforcement agencies and instrumentalities of the government, including the AFP, for the exclusive purpose of ensuring free, orderly, honest, peaceful, and credible elections by virtue of COMELEC Resolution Nr. 10755 promulgated on January 19, 2022.

The Philippine Army’s 53rd Infantry “Matapat” Battalion (53IB), in close partnership and convergence with its PNP counterparts and the COMELEC, has followed a framework composed of four phases. The 53IB established that no lives should be lost and that there should be a high voter turnout. The 53IB implemented these measures to ensure the successful conduct of elections.

The 53IB underscored the critical importance of Key Leaders Engagement (KLE) and Information Operations (IO) throughout the four phases of its strategy. In KLE, officers of the 53IB engaged the political aspirants to ensure that they would abide by the COMELEC rules and regulations pertaining to the elections. Through KLE, diplomacy, and soft power approach, the 53IB has communicated that it will not tolerate the existence of armed individuals other than those duly deputized by the COMELEC, as the Philippine Army was tasked by Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. to dismantle private armed groups that aim to spoil the peaceful conduct of elections.

IO is another measure paramount to peaceful and orderly elections. Through its various social media platforms, media engagements, and with the help of its media partners, the 53IB dominated the information landscape and the online environment. The unit has prevented the perversion of its image and the spread of fake news through accurate and timely posting of updates, being proactive at all times.

In the pre-deployment phase, the 53IB ensured the safe transport of vote counting machines and election paraphernalia. The Battalion participated in activities initiated by the PNP, such as unity walks and covenant signing. However, it has also initiated an activity of its own conception: the Peace Forum on National and Local Elections, which was participated primarily by the aspirant parties and aimed to communicate the 53IB’s intention of peaceful and orderly conduct of elections and asked for the cooperation of politicians. In this phase, the 53IB started conducting training on the conduct of Checkpoint Operations, including dry-runs, to ensure that these activities will run smoothly come election day.

In the pre-deployment phase, the Battalion has consolidated its forces in preparation for the elections, including additional augmented forces from Higher Headquarters and other friendly units as force multipliers. The 53IB also initiated the early deployment of its Quick Response Teams (QRTs) to conduct mobile patrol operations, patrol base operations, spot checkpoint operations, area security, and show of forces. These significantly helped the battalion in shaping the operational environment, which was critical in paving the way for a peaceful election.

In the execution phase, the 53IB heightened the conduct of activities in its pre-deployment phase to make sure no lives were lost, as harassment reports involving armed groups were rampant in this phase.

Lastly, in the post-evaluation phase, the battalion evaluated its activities and identified what went right and wrong and what needed improvement. In this phase, the 53IB prepared the QRT to conduct convoy security to election paraphernalia.

In these regards, The 53IB considered its strategy successful as there were no lives lost and a high voter turnout in the province. The 53IB also earned the people’s confidence because it has maintained a high level of professionalism and excellence while maintaining neutrality in executing its mandate to protect the people and secure the land.

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