By VERA Files
Fewer incidents of election violence this year compared to previous years have prompted the Philippine National Police to declare the May 2013 election more peaceful, but the casualty count this year actually does not differ much from the 2010 national and local elections.
The PNP reported 81 incidents that ranged from shootings, ambushes, explosions and strafing in the four-month period from January 13 to May 13. Sixty-seven of those were shooting incidents.
A total of 51 persons were killed and 65 were wounded while 33 went missing from those incidents. More than half of those killed were local politicians.
This year’s election-related violent incidents constitute less than half of those reported in 2010, when the PNP reported 176. Of that number, the PNP recorded 99 shooting incidents and 26 explosions.
In 2010, 54 people were killed, 78 were wounded, and 13 went missing in close to five months of election season starting from January to June.
PNP Public Information Office Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo, Jr. said the national headquarters has yet to receive reports from all lower units, although he did say the PNP based its assessment partly on media reports.
Cerbo added that incidents that don’t appear in the media or are not brought to the PNP attention are not included in the statistics. “Once unreported talaga, totally unreported, wala kaming makita sa media, walang nagsusumbong, wala lahat, walang complainant, hindi namin alam yan (Once unreported, or not mentioned by the media, not reported by anyone, no complaint, we will never know about the incident),” he said.
“Surprisingly, wala tayong masyadong na-monitor na insidente. Wala tayong masyadong narinig from these provinces (Surprisingly, we didn’t hear a lot of incidents occurring during our monitoring),” said Cerbo in a command conference Monday evening.
“Kung naging generally peaceful sa buong bansa, mas masasabi natin ‘yan the more dito sa mga 15 provinces (If the situation was generally peaceful throughout the country, we can say that more so for the 15 provinces considered areas of concern),” he added.
Election day started with an early morning ambush in Sitio Kansiron, Barangay Tiptipon, Panglima Estino, Sulu, which left one person dead and four others injured. Meantime, intense political rivalry in Tongkil town compelled the Armed Forces of the Philippines to deploy Marines to take over election duties from the police.
Casualties were also reported the day before the elections in Maguindanao. Department of Education district supervisor Abas Menso was shot dead by two unidentified assailants on board a motorcycle in the town of Salipada K. Pendatun. Menso was also a member of the Municipal Board of Election Canvassers.
In Matanog town, a supporter of Liberal Party mayoralty candidate Usman Imam was shot around 7 p.m. on Sunday.
At about 10:40 am on election day, unidentified persons snatched PCOS machines, official ballots and other election paraphernalia from a polling center in Barangay Bohe Languyan and Barangay Lower Cabengbeng, Sumisip, Basilan.
After a negotiation facilitated by the ARMM regional government, however, the suspects returned the PCOS machine and the other election items and the polls resumed.
Colonel Carlito Galvez, commander of the Army's 104th Brigade said the machine and paraphernalia were recovered because the military and police were able to identify the perpetrators. They then sought the help of ARMM Mujiv Hataman, Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and his brother Boy Hataman, to resolve the issue.
In Marawi City, unidentified persons lobbed a grenade reportedly intended for a voting center at the Mindanao State University, but missed their mark. The grenade landed instead in a nearby house, wounding the 21-year-old son of re-electionist Marawi mayor Fahad Salic and four others.
In Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao, soldiers detonated two explosive devices hours before polling booths opened on Monday. In one incident, the explosives were found in Barangay Timbangan and made from 81-mm mortars, to be detonated using cell phones also found in the crime scene. The other device was found in the town center and defused.
Alleged members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) carried the tensions in Mindanao over to Manila. An alleged MNLF member was killed after being shot point-blank from behind. Police recovered shells from a .45 caliber pistol from the crime scene, and a voter’s ID and an alleged MILF membership card from the victim’s body.
Meantime, police rounded up and arrested 15 more alleged MNLF members of the MNLF at the Rosauro Almario Elementary School in Tondo. The police said the suspects violated the gun bad. They were reported from Davao and entered the school in search of a colleague after having collected “blood money.”
Conflicting reports also state that they were looking for the friend’s relative because the men were not eligible to vote in Manila, said Supt. Ernesto Tendero. Their affiliation with the MNLF was confirmed through MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, he said.
Three .45 caliber guns were confiscated. No encounter ensued, said Tendero.
An explosive device also went off in the Pilot Central Elementary School of Kabacan, North Cotabato at around noon but no one was hurt.
In Eastern Visayas, police reported two people killed and another wounded in incidents the day before elections.
One of the casualties Romulo Dealagnon of Calbayog City was a supporter of gubernatorial candidate Sharee Ann Tan-de los Santos. Police said Dealagnon was carrying a hand bag full of money.
In Catarman, Northern Samar, former village council member Arturo Gallano died of multiple gunshot wounds when unidentified assailants sprayed bullets on his house in Barangay Libjo.
High profile candidates or their kin figured in run-ins with the law on election day, such as Senator Bong Revilla whose home police raided allegedly because of the presence of illegal firearms.
Revilla denied owning the firearms confiscated by a police team that raided his home in Imus, Cavite on election day. Revilla said the firearms were found outside his property, and accused the administration party of instigating the raid. Revilla’s son Jolo ran for vice-governor of Cavite under the opposition Lakas party.
Supporters of Pangasinan gubernatorial candidate and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza were accused of mauling an opponent’s supporter just hours before polls opened. Reports said Braganza and his son Lean, who is running for mayor of Alaminos City, ordered the mauling.
In Cagayan, politicians accused rivals of firing at their vehicles. In Sta. Ana town, reports said incumbent mayor Darwin Tobias was allegedly fired upon by supporters of his rival AJ Ponce early in the morning of election day.
Presidential Legislative Liaison Officer Manuel Mamba accused incumbent governor Alvaro Antonio of firing at his vehicle. Mamba’s brother William ran against Antonio but lost.
As of 6:59 p.m. on Monday, the PNP made 201 arrests for violation of the liquor ban, 148 of which were in the Davao Region.
14 were apprehended for vote buying. Two of these, from Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, have charges being prepared against by police. 12 “flying voters” have also been arrested, all in Mandaluyong City.
“In spite of all these incidents... kung titingnan po natin ang buong konteksto, more than 50 million ang voters, 36,000 ang polling centers, roughly 1,500 cities and municipalities (If we are to look at the whole context, there are more than 50 million voters, 36,000 polling centers and roughly 1,500 cities and municipalities),” said Cerbo. – Yen Blanco Delgado, Vince Nonato, Artha Kira Paredes, and Amiel Cagayan
(VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true".)