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Violence, vote-buying increases in poll runup

Incidents of election-related violence and reports of vote-buying continued to rise on Thursday even as the nation prepared for Monday’s mid-term elections.
Election countdown. Policemen in Manila patrol in Quiapo on Wednesday to look out for lawless elements in connection with the coming elections. Danny Pata
The latest reports increased to 66 incidents of election-related violence across the country from Jan. 13 to May 9 this year, with shooting being the most prevalent. The violence has resulted in the death of 44 people and the wounding of 24. In Tabuk City, Kalinga, two soldiers were killed and five others were wounded after an undetermined number of communist rebels ambushed an elite Army team tasked to secure a team of civilians delivering precinct optical scan or vote-counting machines. In Camarines Sur, a militiaman was killed and two soldiers were wounded after their group of seven soldiers and five militiamen tasked to guard PCOS machines were attacked by communist rebels in Ragay town. In Jaro, Iloilo, unidentified men tossed a grenade in front of the house of former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. In San Andres Bukid, Manila, unidentified men lobbed a grenade at the residence of Baswali Alawiya, a candidate for mayor in Lanao del Sur. Meanwhile, a member of the group Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said they continued to receive reports of vote-buying. “What’s happening is that some people go from house to house at night asking for signatures and if the household members are willing to sell their vote,” Ana de Villa-Singson, the group’s media director, said in a television interview. She said the vote buyers in Surigao del Norte, for instance, were offering P500 to P3,000 to voters. The government had earlier identified 15 high-risk areas for the mid-term elections: Abra, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Cavite, Masbate, Samar, Misamis Occidental, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan. In Tacloban City, the Archdiocese of Palo on Thursday issued a pastoral letter calling on the public “to pray and to actively participate” in the May 13 elections and to refuse to sell their vote. “The right to vote is sacred,” Archbishop John Du said. “It is one’s duty for the common good. Voting for money is wrong for it continues the culture of graft and corruption.” Lt. Col. Micahel Buhat, commanding officer of the 49th Infantry Battalion, said the group of seven soldiers and five militiamen in Camarines Sur were attacked by the rebels at 4:15 a.m. “Our soldiers were sent to provide security at at the Agao-ao Elementary School where the PCOS machines arrived yesterday [Thursday],” Buhat said. With Dexter A. See and Ronald O. Reyes
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