Manila: As election-related violence grips the northern Philippines, the country’s Interior Department has assured a visiting delegation from the European Union that the May 2019 midterm polls would be peaceful.

Secretary Eduardo Año, during a recent meeting with members of European Union (EU) Exploratory Mission, assured the group the government was putting in place strategies for a peaceful and transparent conduct of 2019 midterm elections.

“The presence of the EU mission is a perfect opportunity for the national government and the country to show to the whole world that we are capable of maintaining utmost safety and security in the exercise of our right to suffrage,” Año said.

The EU delegation visited the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Central Office for a possible observer mission to assess the situation of preparations for the midterm elections in May 2019.

The EU has helped the Philippine government in the conduct of elections in the past by sending peace observers to missions.

Observers needed

But while officials are working for the conduct of peaceful polls, recent developments point to the need for election observers.

Last Wednesday morning, Vice-Mayor Alfred Concepcion of Balaoan town in northern Philippines’ La Union province was killed in an ambush that also wounded his daughter, Mayor Aleli Concepcion.

In the Philippines, it is increasingly common for politicians from the same family to serve alongside each other in elected political positions.

Only last October, Mayor Alexander Boquing of Supiden, La Union was killed in an ambush.

The attacks on political personalities had prompted the Philippine National Police to start early security preparations for the May 2019 elections.

Likewise, it had placed the province of La Union under the list of election “hotspots.”

“For obvious reasons, it is already on our hotspot list. What happened there is not alarming, but we have to be concerned,” National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde said.

According to police data, at least 18 mayors and vice mayors were either wounded or killed from January to December this year alone.