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Killings mar Philippines midterm vote

Fatal shootings on eve of elections

Killings mar Philippines midterm vote

Quezon City Jail detainees cast their votes inside the office of the jail warden, May 13, 2013 (Photo: Jimmy A. Domingo / domingo.digital@gmail.com)

At least five people were reported killed in separate attacks in Bayog in southern Philippines yesterday, marking the latest wave of election-related violence that has left around 60 dead since February.

Two teachers were also killed by unidentified gunmen in the nearby Isabela and Maguindanao provinces yesterday. Several other election-related killings were reported elsewhere in the country, while police have arrested around 3,000 on charges of flouting a gun ban put in place for the election.

Authorities attempted to deflect criticism of security surrounding the crucial midterm vote. "Although there are pockets of violence, leading to some deaths, the whole system is protected," said military spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan. "We are able to curtail the big threats and we don't see any major disruption."

Allegations of fraud have also circulated. In the town of Baganga, in the southern province of Davao Oriental, which was devastated by a typhoon last December, elections monitors reported massive vote-rigging, with supporters of political candidates said to have "bought" votes for between $15 and $50.

Election watchdog Against Fraud reported several “anomalous situations” in polling precincts across the country, lending weight to earlier claims by youth groups that the poll body failed to address major issues in the automated election system. Claims of malfunctioning machines, blackouts, and delayed voting were also reported earlier today.

Monday’s election is likely to see a dramatic shake-up of the country’s political and legislative arenas and is crucial for President Benigno Aquino’s reform drive.

More than 18,000 government posts are up for grabs, from the local level up to members of the legislature. President Aquino has stressed the importance of the midterms for his anti-corruption drive, which he won popular support for in the buildup to his 2010 landslide election victory.

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