About 18 people died across the Philippines in election day violence on Monday, as gunmen attacked polling stations, ambushed vehicles and stole vote counting machines, police said.
THE military’s National Election Monitoring Center said three persons were also injured in 22 election-related violent incidents (ERVIs) recorded from 12 midnight to 2 p.m. Monday.
Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, said there were three shooting incidents, three explosions, three arsons, three indiscriminate firings and drive-by shootings, while an ambush occurred in the Westmincom’s jurisdiction.
However, authorities described the violence as isolated incidents and that the overall conduct of the elections – which saw tens of millions of people cast their votes for President and 18,000 other positions – was peaceful.
In the worst attack, seven people were shot dead in an ambush before dawn in Rosario, Cavite, a town just outside of Manila known for political violence, Chief Inspector Jonathan del Rosario, spokesman for a national police election-monitoring task force, said.
Seven people have also been reported dead in the strife-torn southern Philippine province of Maguindanao, where warlord-politicians have their own private armies. The dead included a voter reported by the police to have been shot inside a polling station in the small town of Guindulungan. A bystander was also killed in Cotabato City when a grenade was launched at a market as people were casting their votes, police said. In the nearby town of Sultan Kudarat, a stronghold of the nation’s biggest Muslim rebel group, 20 men forced their way into a voting center and carted away voting machines, police chief Senior Inspector Esmael Madin said.
Reports from Lanao del Sur showed one dead, while two others were reported killed in Marawi City.
In the northern Philippine province of Abra, infamous for politicians killing each other, armed supporters of rival mayoral candidates shot at each other, leaving one person dead and two wounded, provincial police spokeswoman Marcy Grace Marron said.
Police arrested two men and two women with guns after the fighting in the mountainous town of Lagayan, north of Manila, Marron added.
Still, elections commissioner Rowena Guanzon said the violence would not impact the result, noting they had taken place in known “hot spots” where extra security forces were in place.
Military spokesman Colonel Noel Detoyato also voiced little alarm.
“There are isolated incidents. (They) had minimal effect on the conduct of the elections,” he told Agence France Presse.
Fifteen people had been confirmed killed in pre-election violence since the start of the year, according to the national police poll monitoring taskforce.
Political violence is a longstanding problem in the Philippines, fueled by lax gun laws, corrupt security forces and political “dynasties” that often have their security forces.
Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking mayor of southern Davao city, is the favorite to win the presidential elections after campaigning on a platform of killing thousands of criminals that critics say will incite more violence.
AFP, Fernan Marasigan and Manila Times Correspondents