While other provinces still had issues about ghost voters wherein parties use non-existent names and voters to join the poll, Eastern Visayas meanwhile had the uncanny reputation of its candidates turning to ghosts due to political rivalry.
On the eve of the elections on October 29, the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded at least three election-related violent incidents. A good news for the region which placed third with the least number of cases out of the 31 recorded incidents in the region. Four were recorded in Northern Mindanao, one in the 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.
Prior to the election day, Leyte Provincial police chief PCol Erwin Portillo said police listed 11 shooting incidents since the beginning of the election period, but most of these were classified as due to personal grudges. Police validated the first election-related violence in the killing of barangay kagawad Jenny dela Peña on Sept. 7 in Brgy Tag-abaca, Leyte, Leyte and charges have already been filed against the suspect.
Another shooting incident occurred in the district, namely in Villaba town, involving Aldwin Perez, whose brother-in-law, Raul Cosinillo, village chairman of Barangay Mataloto in Leyte town, was assassinated on May 10 of this year by unknown gunmen. Mercedes Perez, Aldwin’s sister, escaped the attack.
Meanwhile, authorities are still verifying another possible poll-related case in the shooting of a 19-year-old SK candidate in Mataloto on Oct. 22.
It is interesting to note that a majority of these crimes happened in the 3rd district of the province. Due to this, the regional police office has sent more personnel to all five police stations in the third district made up of the towns of Calubian, Leyte, Villaba, Tabango and San Isidro.
Among the towns, Villaba and Leyte towns were classified as “areas of concern” because of a history of election violence, according to the Regional Joint Security Control Center.
In fact, Leyte Governor Petilla had also voiced his concern over a series of shooting occurrences in the 3rd district, some of which resulted in the deaths of victims. “We’ve given special attention to the third district. In fact, half of our police force is monitoring and securing the district because of the violence reported from that area,” Petilla said.
“We will do everything to prevent violence in the third district,” he vowed.
Only Villaba and Leyte towns have been classified as “areas of concern” or “yellow category” by the Regional Joint Security Control Center. This category identifies locations of concerns where there have been elected-related problems in previous elections, the likely use of partisan armed groups, and the incidence of violence.
Harassment in Samar
Meanwhile in Samar, Barangay Naguma in Calbayog City held its village and youth council polls after incidents of harassment.
Initially believed to be members of an insurgent group, armed men fired upon the contingent delivering election paraphernalia to Naguma and Dinawacan villages, which suspended voting on Monday.
“At first light of October 31, team and escorts proceeded again (to Naguma), but midway, around 12:25 p.m., they were engaged in a firefight by a private armed group. Our EO and the EBs were caught in the middle of the firefight,” Comelec spokesperson Atty. John Rex Laudiangco said.
“They were kept safe and protected by their reinforced escorts from the Philippine Army, who were able to neutralize 5 members of the PAGs and recover a weapon,” he added.
However, it was later confirmed by Army Major General Camilo Ligayo that the suspects were members of a Private Armed Group operating in the Upper Happy Valley of Calbayog.
In another incident, the office of the Commission on Elections in Sta. Margarita, Samar was believed to have been intentionally set ablaze just days after elections on November 2.
Comelec Chairman George Erwin Garcia assured the public that the election results were not affected, as the winners in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in the municipality had already been proclaimed. Copies of the certificate of canvass of votes were also secured.
The estimated damage was P345,000 but authorities are still waiting for the results of the investigation regarding the actual cause of the fire. Rumors of arson are circulating in the nearby communities as two of the barangays in Sta. Margarita were categorized by the Comelec as areas of “grave security concern,” while eight other villages were designated as “areas of concern.”
Less cases but still alarming
The fact that elections always lead to the spillage of blood in communities of Samar and Leyte, this still shows that progress and change may still be far from being achieved. The fact that violence has almost been synonymous with power in the region is terrifying.
This still means that those who can “pay” and who have the power will remain in power while those who want to step up to challenge them can easily be eradicated. If this goes on, who will end the cycle? Who will have the power to seize the seat without spilling any blood? It may or may not be possible. After all, Samarnons and Leytenos are known as “mag-isog”. Perhaps the too much “isog” that fails to put an end to these never ending killings during election season.
#OpinYon8 #OY8 #CoverStory #GhostCandidates #EasternVisayas #BSKE #Election #BarangayElections #ElectionViolence #PNP #Leyte #GovernorPetilla #Comelec #OpinYon #WeTakeAStand