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Philippine church workers hurt in election-related violence

Authorities deploy 98,000 soldiers and 143,000 policemen to secure the May 13 polls

Joe Torres, Manila

Joe Torres, Manila

Updated: May 07, 2019 09:15 AM GMT
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Philippine church workers hurt in election-related violence

Philippine soldiers stand in formation during send-off ceremonies in Manila on May 7 ahead of the May 13 national and local elections where they will provide security amid fears of violence. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

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Unidentified gunmen shot at a group of Catholic lay leaders who were on their way to a meeting in the southern Philippines in what church leaders suspect was election-related violence.

At least three of the church workers, who also serve as village leaders in the town of Concepcion in Misamis Occidental province, were seriously wounded in the May 5 attack.

Killings triggered by local rivalries have plagued villages, towns and provinces across the country in past elections.

Poll watchdogs earlier warned that the May 13 national and local elections could become the bloodiest in the country's history if politicians refuse to keep their followers on a tight leash.

On May 6, the Philippine military and police held send-off ceremonies for personnel who will be deployed across the country for election duties.

An estimated 98,000 soldiers and 143,000 policemen are tasked with ensuring security and order during the polls.

Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz condemned the attack on the church workers.

"Let us not be so carried by our emotion that we no longer respect the sanctity of life," said the prelate. "Let us not be too partisan because this destroys our capacity to use our intellect."

He also reminded voters "never to vote for a candidate who has a private army."

Father Edilberto Baculi, parish priest of the Immaculate Conception parish, said the ambush might be election-related because most of those in the convoy were supporters of one local candidate in the coming elections.

"I am thankful that most of those in the convoy were not hurt," said the priest.

Father Baculi appealed to those behind the attack not to continue with their "evil plans" to kill people only to win in the elections.

"Life is important, and [the perpetrators] have also their lives. I hope that they will find God and stop the bad intentions," said the priest.

Less than a week before the elections, Philippine police have already recorded at least 22 election-related violent incidents across the country that resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people and the wounding of more than a dozen others.

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