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Deadly violence, vote-buying mar Philippine polls

Local elections in the Catholic-majority nation are known for rigging and violence by rival groups
Filipinos turn up to cast votes at a polling station during the the local elections known as Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Election (BSKE) on Oct. 30.

Filipinos turn up to cast votes at a polling station during the the local elections known as Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Election (BSKE) on Oct. 30. (Photo supplied)

Published: October 30, 2023 10:59 AM GMT
Updated: October 30, 2023 02:22 PM GMT

At least six people were killed and several were injured in clashes between rival groups amid allegations of rigging and vote-buying as millions of Filipinos flocked to vote in local polls to elect members of rural and youth councils on Oct. 30, officials said.

Some 31 cases of violence were reported during the Barangay and Sangguiang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) and a majority of the violence was recorded in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim-majority Mindanao Island, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP)

The PNP chief Major General Benjamin Acorda Jr. said four cases of violence were recorded in Northern Mindanao, one in Zamboanga Peninsula, three in Ilocos Norte, three in Eastern Visayas, one in Calabarzon, two in Bicol, another two in Central Visayas, and five in the Cordillera Administrative Region, among others.

A total of 9 shooting incidents were recorded. Police also received 17 complaints of vote buying, and 51 individuals were arrested due to liquor ban violations on the eve of elections across the nation, Acorda said.

Barangay is the smallest administrative division and Sangguiang Kabataan is a youth council.

About 67 million Filipinos out of the nation’s estimated 111 million people were eligible to vote in BSKE elections.

“We stand ready to ensure smooth conduct of the elections. We want to assure our citizens that the PNP is in full command of the situation and all systems go for the Barangay and Sangguiang Kabataan Elections," Acorda told reporters in a press briefing after the voting ended.

Despite the violence and alleged vote rigging, the Commission on Elections chief George Garcia said the polling was peaceful.

“The elections are generally peaceful, although there were some incidents of violence, especially in the Bangsamoro region,” Garcia said in a briefing.

The Philippines, an archipelago divided into 17 regions, has 42,027 barangays (villages) in 148 cities and 1,486 municipalities.

One Barangay is composed of a village chief and seven-member village council and a Sangguiang Kabataan is made up of a youth chairman and seven youth councilors.

There are 672, 432 seats up for grabs in the Oct. 30 elections, according to the national election commission.

Some 1.41 million people had filed their candidacies, including 828,644 candidates for the village elections and 585,843 candidates for the youth council.

As the polling opened on Monday, at least six people were killed while several others were injured in various areas in southern Philippines.

In Maguindano del Norte, two voters were gunned down while three others were injured in Barangay Bugawas, Datu Sinsuat.

In Butig, Lanao del Sur, a candidate for village chieftain was also shot and killed by his own brother who is a rival candidate of the victim.

Earlier, authorities appealed for stricter measures against loose firearms, which have been the major reason for election-related shootings.

Poll chief Garcia, however, expressed concerns over incidents of violence that “not only hurt but also killed.”

“Running for office must not be a cause to lose someone's life,” Garcia said, noting the separate killing of five people in Masbate province and Cotabato City a week prior to the election day.

As of Oct. 25, police nabbed 1,841 individuals while 1,393 firearms were confiscated due to violation of the election gun ban.

More than 5,000 police officers were also trained as poll personnel in case the assigned teachers in poll precincts backed out due to election-related violence.

Aside from the election-related shooting, police also reported incidents of vote-buying.

“We are taking action... for proper disposition. Rest assured we will closely monitor until the closing of the voting,” said Acorda.

In the Eastern Visayas region, a 47-year-old farmer reported to the police an alleged vote buying in the village of Tuburan, in Calubian town of Leyte province.

She said that on Sunday afternoon, a sum of money worth 70,000 pesos (US$1,232) was left to her by the husband of a candidate for village councilor, purposely not to vote for their incumbent candidate for village chieftain.

Because of fear, she turned over the said money to the authorities in their village.

Police chief Acorda called for the end of election-related violence.

“Our vote is sacred; let it lead us towards a brighter future for our beloved nation and its youth. This electoral exercise is more than just a mere task. It is a fundamental civil responsibility that requires the collective efforts of all individuals,” said Acorda.

“Let’s join together. We can take pride that whatever the outcome of this election, the voice of the people prevails,” he added.

Catholic Church earlier warned the Filipino voters to “go out and vote for candidates who are honest, who are credible.”

“Fill [your ballots with people] with integrity, those who can really help in our barangays and our nation,” said Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, the vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

The prelate maintained that “good governance should start in our communities.”

During the previous BSKE elections in May 2018, at least 35 people were killed across the country.

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