AMID recent killings related to politics in Masbate, Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the poll body will study if it needs to place the province under its control.

“We have to study it but Masbate is one of the provinces that had a record of election-related violence incidents in the past and we hope that it won't happen again this election,” the Comelec official said.

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Last week, police officials reported two fatalities resulting from political violence in the island province.

Association of Barangay Councils president Ali Aransado of Esperenza municipality was killed on Tuesday.

The second victim was identified as Danny Amor, the village chieftain in San Jacinto Town. He was killed by five unidentified armed men around 8 p.m. Thursday.

Amor's family reportedly believes that his killing was related to the politics.

Masbate belongs to the Election Watch List of Areas (EWLAs) this year and was also placed under Comelec control in the 2007 elections.

Larrazabal, who was the regional director of Bicol Region in 2007, confirmed that a lot of election-related violence incidents like killings, ambush, and intimidations, were recorded during the past elections.

The official said the en banc will study the situation whether or not the province will be under Comelec control but cleared that a petition should be filed first before they can act on it.

“We are ready to declare it under Comelec control provided a hearing will be conducted,” he said.

Additional military and police officials were already deployed in the area to ensure peace and order.

Under Comelec control, the poll body is in charge of the security forces deployed and other administrative duties of the local government.

Election-related extortion activities

In a related development, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was directed to expose politicians providing aid to the New People’s Army (NPA) by paying the communist rebels permit-to-campaign and permit-to-win taxes this election season.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales on Monday said he told officers of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) during his recent visit to Camp Nakar, Quezon to expose politicians who are helping the enemy, particularly those who do so willingly.

Gonzales said the Solcom officers reported to him that there were “politicians of national prominence” who were “friendly to the rebels” and were “readily submitting” to the latter’s extortion activities.

The defense chief quoted Solcom officers as reporting to him that NPA military offensives and non-violent activities had steadily declined in Solcom’s area of responsibility but the rebels’ election-related extortion activities remained particularly in Southern Tagalog.

“I was informed NPA (election-related) extortion activities even broadened in Quezon where there are politicians of national prominence who are friendly to the rebels and readily submit to their extortion,” Gonzales said.

In contrast, Gonzales said, there are also politicians resisting the rebels’ extortion like the governor of Mindoro who is supporting the military in its fight against the NPA.

According to the defense chief, the rebels’ extortion racket in Batangas is suspended after soldiers captured three key NPA “tax” collectors in the province last January 13.

He said Solcom officers are talking to election candidates telling them not to fear the NPA and assuring them of military protection as needed.

Gonzales also recently disclosed that NPA guerillas are serving as goons to some politicians running in the May election. (Kathrina Alvarez/VR/Sunnex)