By Sarwell Meniano

AUGMENTATION. Military trucks in Calubian, Leyte in this Feb. 27, 2024 photo. The Philippine Army has joined the police in intensifying anti-criminality operations in Leyte’s 3rd congressional district after the recent killings of village officials. (Photo from the Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army has joined the police in intensifying anti-criminality operations in Leyte’s 3rd congressional district after the recent killings of village officials.

Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, commander of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade, said the military, in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP), held a series of dialogues with the town and village officials to go after the perpetrators.

“We are deploying additional troops to restrict the freedom of movement of those armed criminals and deter them from terrorizing the people. This will make our people and communities feel secure,” Vestuir said in a phone interview Wednesday.

He declined to disclose the number of soldiers deployed to the 3rd District due to security reasons. He, however, added that the figure is more than double that of those deployed to patrol bases in Villaba and San Isidro towns.

A patrol base is a security perimeter that is set up when a squad or platoon of soldiers conducts a patrol halt for an extended period.

“We have deployed a lot of troops with tanks. We must project that we have many personnel in the area to frighten those who have plans to commit crime,” Vestuir told the Philippine News Agency.

The military provides support to the PNP through law enforcement operations.

“Our troops are tasked with conducting roving patrols with the PNP in areas with high threats. They are also ready to augment PNP checkpoints if needed,” he added.

The military deployed more troops to the 3rd District after a series of attacks targeting barangay officials, the latest of which was the killing of Diot village chief Elizalde Tabon, village councilor Paulo Mendero, and village watchman Rusty Salazar in San Isidro town on Feb. 24.

Four gunmen riding two motorcycles reportedly barged into the village hall and attacked the victims while attending a meeting. Two other village officials were injured.

The incident happened just hours after the shooting-to-death of village councilor Rodulfo Cajes of Tag-abaca village in Leyte, Leyte on Feb. 23.

He was heading for the local agricultural office when he was ambushed.

On Feb. 20, a gunman shot and killed village councilor Ronald Palacio in Tugas village, Tabango, Leyte.

The towns of San Isidro, Leyte, and Tabango are part of Leyte’s 3rd legislative district. (PNA)