Deadly violence mars village polls in southern Philippines

Jeoffrey Maitem and Roel Pareño
Cotabato/Zamboanga – Philippines
Deadly violence mars village polls in southern Philippines Philippine Marines secure a poll center in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, Oct. 30, 2023.
[Mark Navales/BenarNews]

At least six people were killed in the southern Philippines on Monday as violence marred nationwide elections to choose village leaders, poll monitors and the police said.

The victims were voters or supporters of candidates, and most of the violence happened in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BAARM), where firearms proliferate and local politicians hire former separatist rebels as guns for their private armies, police said.

The elections for more than 336,000 positions were supposed to be held last year but were postponed by then-President Rodrigo Duterte.

The victims were “not candidates, they were mere voters,” said George Garcia, chairman of the Commission on Elections.

“And it would appear that the culprits are also voters or supporters of certain candidates. We are going to go deeper into this incident,” Garcia said.

In Datu Odin Sinsuat, a town in southern Maguindanao del Norte province, two people were killed and at least five others were wounded in a shooting incident in Bugawas village, regional police commander Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza said.

An investigation showed that gunmen attacked the victims as they entered the polling center soon after 6 a.m., before fleeing on a motorbike.

“We have identified the suspects and our manhunt operation is ongoing,” Nobelza said.

In Butig town in Lanao del Sur province, a known militancy hotbed, Madid Bao who was a candidate for village chief in Poktan, was shot and killed by his brother and known rival, Jamael, police said.

Madid reportedly pistol-whipped Jamael in the head, causing a scuffle that ended with Madid being shot in the chest. He was later pronounced dead in the hospital, while Jamael was arrested while fleeing.

Voting was also disrupted in the town of Tugaya, also in Lanao del Sur, after supporters of two candidates for village chief engaged in street fights, although no serious injuries or arrests were reported.

And on the southern island province of Basilan, gunmen killed one voter in the town of Tipo-Tipo, while a former militiaman shot and killed a village councilman in Lamitan town, before being killed himself, police said.

More than 67 million Filipinos had registered to vote for more than 800,000 candidates vying for village chief and other posts in urban and rural villages, the Philippines’ smallest political units.

These polls are considered important because whoever wins commands a support base that national parties covet during the general election.

Around 300,000 police officers and soldiers had been deployed to secure polling stations for the election that Duterte postponed last year when he cited the possibility that drug traffickers could be funding some candidates’ campaigns – allegations that some analysts dismissed as unfounded.

Days before the polls, at least 1,922 people were arrested for violating a ban on guns during elections, with police confiscating 1,454 guns. Police said 1,683 were voluntarily surrendered and 2,325 were deposited for safekeeping.

Mark Navales in Cotabato City, southern Philippines, contributed to this report.


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