22 killed ahead of barangay elections-A A +A
Sunday, October 27, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- At least 22 candidates and supporters have been killed in election-related violence over the past month ahead of this week's village polls across the Philippines, police said Sunday.
Twenty-seven other people have been wounded in violence linked to election rivalries, mostly in shootouts, said national police spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac.
At least 588 people have been arrested for violating the election gun ban, with police confiscating nearly 500 firearms, 4,000 rounds of ammunition, 191 knives and 68 grenades, he added.
Fifteen people were killed in village election violence in 2010, Sindac said.
Government troops and police have gone on full alert for Monday's daylong balloting, especially in about 6,000 of 42,028 villages nationwide considered security hotspots due to a history of electoral violence or past attacks by Muslim and communist insurgents or al-Qaeda-linked bandits.
"Our elections in the past have always been marred by untoward incidents," military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said, adding that government forces would guard against "spoilers to this democratic exercise."
In the latest violence, unidentified men opened fire on a police car carrying an elections officer and policemen Sunday, setting off a gunbattle that wounded the poll official, two policemen and a civilian in Palanas town in central Masbate province, police said.
Police also arrested the son of a candidate for village chairman and 16 other supporters, some of them armed with shotguns and pistols, for allegedly threatening a rival candidate in southern South Cotabato province.
Despite these incidents, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Sunday that it is ready to hold the political exercise Monday.
It said deployment of ballots and other poll materials was already completed, while the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines were on full alert status to ensure peaceful and orderly polls.
“We have long been set. We are ready. There are no more problems," said Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes. [Read the related story.]
More than 800,000 candidates are vying for chairmanships and other posts in urban and rural villages, locally called barangays — the Philippines' smallest political units, where violence and fraud are as much a concern as they are in elections for higher office.
Officials, meantime, have postponed Monday's elections in central Bohol province, which was devastated by a strong earthquake on October 15 that killed more than 200 people, as well as in Zamboanga City, where Moro rebels occupied coastal villages and took scores of residents hostage in a three-week standoff last month that killed more than 200 combatants and civilians. (AP/Sunnex)