Patronage Politics blamed: For Political Murders & Mayhem in the Philippines
The 90 day long Philippine election campaign period for the mid term polls for Congressional and local positions has so far resulted in 75 election related murders.
A briefing given by the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported.
“The PNP, as of May 1 the fatalities included two lawmakers (congressmen), a vice-governor, two mayors, three city councilors, 19 village chairmen and 16 village officials.” Senior Supt. Samuel Pagdilao Jr added that, “Another 32 casualties were supporters of the political candidates or civilians who happened to be in the area when the attacks took place.”.
Police officials however are quick to point out that 75 election related murders however violent this may seem is actually an improvement over past elections. “The number of casualties is still low compared to the 189 reported killed and 279 wounded in the 2004 campaign period”. PNP Spokesman Gen. Pagdilao clarified; overall the situation has improved since the last election.
Partly the decision by the Philippine election commission or COMELEC to place 60 cities and municipalities and two provinces were placed under ‘Comelec control is seen by Police as major reason for the drop in half violent incidents and killings.
Far from Over: 2 weeks till Election Day .
The Philippines Police is at a higher alert level during the election period with assault teams backing up armed police in the streets and mobile and fixed checkpoints spread throughout several areas of COMELEC control.
In part to keep warring political factions with heavily armed bodyguards from clashing, “417 cities and municipalities tagged as areas of immediate concern while 216 cities and municipalities were listed areas of concern.”.
Political clans and Warlord Politics:
In some parts of the Country there are those who still rule ‘warlord style’ a throwback to the 1950’s over parts of the country far from the public eye, In some cases even in urban areas with either private militias of bodyguards or often using, ‘active duty’ Military or Policemen.
To the “private Warriors’ whose pay and lifestyle are augmented by the nearly feudal system of old ‘Politics of patronage’.
But while these groups are often in far flung areas.
It is when rival political groups clash the outcome can be extremely violent. In the Central Luzon Province of Nueva Ecjica, an example of what happens when heavily armed political groups cross paths was displayed the often ugly side of ‘politics of the gun’ at it’s worst.
“The shootout in Jaen, Nueva Ecija between the camps of Nueva Ecija congressman Rodolfo Antonino and former Jaen Mayor Antonio Esquivel left four people dead and 14 more wounded – one of the bloodiest election related incidents this campaign.” Babe Romoldez, a columnist of Philippine Star newspaper wrote in in a Op-Ed piece, ” There’s no question a lot of business activity depends on the result of the elections, but of equal concern is for the process to be perceived as clean and honest. Unfortunately, election-related violence is getting more intense, “
The clash between warring political groups has led led to the deployment of 1,000 combat troops to the province and COMELEC (Commission of Elections) control.
In another election related killing a Mayor attending a complaint haring was gunned down on the streets of the Philippines second largest city of Cebu, while even on the campaign trail – violence has become part of the campaign, “Another violent incident involves San Carlos City, Pangasinan mayor Julian Resuello, who was fatally shot during a rally on Saturday. This further intensified perceptions that election violence is getting out of hand”
Local Government Politcal reform urged:
Political patronage which according to some of the top leaders of major LGU’s is often funded by graft ridden political cronyism and illegal ‘rackets’ that is typical at the local level of Government in areas far from the capitol – and – even sometimes in towns and cities of the major metropolitan zenes.
Barely two weeks remains in the campaign till election day on May 14th, In the last week the violence has escalated with 22 new incidents reported – this coming alongside three active insurgent groups clashes with government forces has led the US, UK, and Australia as well as many EU countries to issue warnings to their nationals living or visiting the Philippines to exercise extreme caution and avoid all Political gatherings.
“It is a cycle that needs to be broken, Political leaders to stay in power are expected by the people to hand out ‘favors’, You need funds to do this – so those not wealthy enough become forced to fund these activities with graft. Which leads to ineffective projects and governance,” A leading local official said on condition of anonymity, “Reforms are needed at the local level of politics too, or in the end it will be warfare every time there is an election as groups battle for control of local economies through political feuds and violence.”
With 75 Dead and 12 days to go and at least another week till winning candidates will be proclaimed the danger of more violence looms of violence is in the air already as political rivals claim victory amidst threats of more violence if their candidates do not win.
‘The threats of violence echo all the way down line from all sides of the politcal spectrum if they don’t win from the leaders at the top down to the lowest councilor.’ A senior national police official declining to be named told the author, “I’m more worried about what happens after the votes are counted and how that goes – if it goes bad – scenes of violence on large scale in some places might happen.’
Police officials privately fear the worst but say they expect if the polls are credible post-election violence ‘Won’t happen’. One thing is certain, as the frenzied campaign period is nearing climax, expect election-related deaths to soar as the Philippine Political warfare nears the homestretch.
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