Manila: Close to a hundred village officials and potential leaders have so far died in the run-up to the October 28 elections, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.
With 24 days to go before Filipinos once more take to the polls, election-related violence is expected to reach a feverish pitch even after the PNP last week declared a ban on carrying firearms in public on civilians and off-duty police and military personnel.
PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said that among the security measures being laid out by the PNP is the strict implementation of the gun ban as well as the activation of static and mobile checkpoints.
Purisima had recently issued command memorandum circular SAFE 2013-Alpha (Secure and Fair Elections-A), which set policy guidelines in connection with the polls. The top police official said the PNP is closely coordinating with the armed forces to prevent any attempt by the communist insurgent group, New Peoples’ Army, to exploit the elections by demanding money from candidates.
According to records of the PNP, from January 1 to September 22, some 96 incumbent village officials and potential candidates have been killed in 177 incidents while 41 others were reported wounded. Authorities said among the likely cause of violence is political rivalry among the candidates.
PNP had also identified 150 areas of immediate concern in the country due to high potential of violence taking place prior, during and after the polls. There are a total 42,028 villages nationwide.
According to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brilliantes Jr, his department is ready for the conduct of the community polls given the administrative and security aspects involved in the conduct of the political exercise. He also bared that the Comelec is poised to announce approved candidates for the polls.
Philippines holds its elections for village leaders every three years and violence is a hallmark of the political exercise, be it the national polls or mid-term level. During the grassroots poll, Filipinos will elect one village chairman, seven and councillors.
Village-level governance units are accorded with wide ranging powers — from settling domestic conflict such as that involving members of the family — to resolving local peace and order issues.
Youth polls postponed
Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III has signed a law postponing the Sangguniang Kabataan or Youth Sector elections.
The Youth polls was originally set on October 28 in sync with the village polls but certain issues had brought about the postponement of the polls and among which is the issue concerning budget.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte during a press brief, said Aquino passed into law on Thursday “An Act to Postpone the Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on October 28 Amending Republic Act 9340 and for other purposes.”
The youth polls involve election of representatives from the 13-year-old to 18 age bracket. Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle had earlier said that the poll administration body wants the SK polls abolished as it had degenerated into a breeding ground for political dynasties.
“SK members are being exposed to corruption an early stage,” he said.