The Philippine National Police (PNP) confirmed 16 validated cases of violent election-related incidents across the country since the election period started on Jan. 9 with the gun ban.
In a press conference Sunday, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the number was much lower than 133 in the 2016 national polls and 60 in the 2019 mid-term polls.
Gun ban violators and confiscated firearms were 50 percent lower than in the two previous elections.
As of Sunday, 3,081 people have been arrested and 2,459 firearms have been seized.
The latest additions to violent election-related incidents were two shootings on Saturday among supporters of rival mayoral candidates.
Four died in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur, while 24 were arrested in General Tinio, Nueva Ecija.
Fajardo said the general situation and assessment for Monday’s elections is still “green” or generally peaceful with a few isolated incidents.
“We are not discounting any possibility. All contingencies are in place for all possible scenarios and we identified the number of personnel needed. Checkpoints are established and we have more than 40,000 personnel deployed,” she said.
“We also have a security and quick reaction team and convoy for the transport of election paraphernalia,” Fajardo added.
All campaign activities ended on Saturday and the liquor ban is in effect Sunday and Monday.
The PNP National Election Monitoring and Action Center reported 92 percent completion of delivery of official ballots to 1,635 Treasurer’s Offices for further distribution to 37,113 polling centers, Fajardo said.
PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., said the 225,000-strong police force would ensure peaceful, orderly, and credible elections.
Danao reminded police officers to remain apolitical and treat all candidates equally.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice, the PNP and the Commission on Elections have been asked to investigate the reported election-related violence in Maragondon, Cavite on Saturday night, May 7.
The violence was allegedly perpetrated by the camp of Lawrence “Umbe” Arca, a candidate for mayor of Maragondon.
Witnesses said that on Saturday night, the group of Noel A. Rillo, also a candidate for mayor, passed by the house of Barangay Chairman Eric Acosta.
They said they noticed that a vehicle with blinkers was parked in front of Acosta’s house in Barangay Bucal 3.
They said that Rillo and his group decided to alight from their vehicle to find out if Acosta had some concerns. Acosta met Rillo’s group outside his house and said he (Acosta) was also wondering who owned the vehicle and who were onboard.
At that point, witnesses said that Arca and his bodyguard identified as Roel Bidbid alighted from the parked vehicle.
They said that another Arca’s bodyguard, identified as Rodrigo Tanagras, shouted at Rillo’s group in Filipino: “What are you proud of, what do you want to happen.”
“Nothing, we’re just talking here,” a member of Rillo’s camp replied.
The witnesses said that Arca shouted: “Hit him.”
Tanagras followed Arca’s command, got an Armalite rifle from the parked vehicle, and pointed it at Rillo and Dr. Efren A. Rillo (Rillo’s brother). Candidate Rillo was able to parry the firearm, which fell on the ground, they said.
Immediately, Arca’s group fled, they added. Efforts to contact Arca for comment were unsuccessful.
DOJ records showed that Arca has been charged in the 2018 killing of Trece Martires City Vice Mayor Alexander Lubigan. Arca was later on pinpointed as the alleged mastermind in Lubigan’s killing.
Lubigan and his aide, Romulo Guillemer, were killed along the Trece Martires-Indang Road in Cavite on July 8, 2018.
On Saturday, allegations of vote-buying reportedly triggered a shooting incident that left four dead in Magsingal, Ilocos Sur on Saturday morning.
Charges will be filed against the two groups composed of supporters of rival mayoral candidates, according to a press briefing at the provincial capitol on Sunday attended by Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson, Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Director Col. Wilson Doromal, and Ilocos Sur provincial election supervisor Alipio Castillo.
Six supporters of mayoral candidate Alrico Favis — Guillermo Unciano, Agustin Unciano, Dante Tolentino, Archie Garcia, Menelio Oliver Jr, all of Barangay Patong; and Albert Bańez of Barangay San Ramon — will face murder and frustrated murder charges, while two supporters of rival candidate Lorry Salvador Jr., identified as Teofilo Taasin, 39, of Barangay Maratudo, and Kenneth Salvador, 40, of Barangay Napo, will be slapped with frustrated murder charges.
Initial police investigation showed that the incident stemmed from an alleged vote-buying activity that went out of control.
Investigators said that a group backing Salvador went to Barangay Labut to verify alleged vote-buying and were confronted by supporters of Favis, husband of outgoing mayor Victoria Ina Favis who is running for vice mayor.
Police identified the casualties as Lerry Torda, 41, of Barangay Maratudo; Recto Bagani, 65, of Manabo, Abra; Jovito Tomaneng, 61, of Dingras, Ilocos Norte, a retired member of the Philippine Army; and William Bulil-lit, 61, former chief of Barangay Barbaquezo in Carasi, Ilocos Norte and former Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit member.
Teofilo Taasin, 39, of Barangay Maratudo; suspects Kenneth Salvador and Bańez, who is Favis’ driver; and Romnick Villanueva, 25, of Barangay Patong were wounded.
Arrested from the Favis camp for possession of a .45 caliber pistol and ammunition were Minelio Oliver, 38, self-employed; and village watchman Eddie Unzo, 37, both of Barangay Patong.
Doromal said additional police force and members of the Philippine Army are deployed in the area.
Meanwhile, Castillo said there is no need to put the town under Comelec control after being assured by the authorities that all measures will be applied to prevent a similar incident.
“Ultimately, our objective is to have a free election where voters are not afraid to go out and vote,” Castillo said.