Villar, Legarda worried about rise in poll violence
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star
NAVAL, Biliran , Philippines – Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manuel Villar Jr. and running mate Sen. Loren Legarda yesterday urged the police and the military to step up their campaign against pre-election violence, especially after three NP local candidates were killed months before the elections.
Villar said he received reports that private armies servicing politicians are still prevalent all over the country.
He said the upcoming polls offer a chance for Philippine National Police chief Director General Jesus Verzosa and newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Delfin Bangit to ensure the conduct of peaceful elections all over the country.
“This is a challenge to both generals to prove that they are up to the job of ensuring violence-free elections,” Villar said.
“This is their chance as well to vindicate themselves against critics who suspect them as enemies of democracy and puppets of President Arroyo,” he added.
Villar identified the slain NP members as Julio Esquivias, a retired policeman running for councilor in Casiguran, Sorsogon; Wilbert Origines, who was running for vice mayor in Taganaan, Surigao del Norte; and Joen Canete, who was running for councilor in Dingras, Ilocos Norte.
He said an organizer of the “Manny Villar for President Movement,” Cipriano Albores, was also slain in Davao del Sur.
“These incidents could only be a prelude to more violence as the May elections draw closer,” Villar said. “And this is where the PNP and the AFP should come in…. They should pool their men and resources to stop such violence and ensure that the coming polls will be free, honest and clean.”
Villar said many of the suspects in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre remain at large.
“These (massacre suspects), who are fully armed, can still create trouble during the elections,” he said.
Legarda, on the other hand, called for stricter implementation of the total gun ban to cut down on election-related violence.
“We should revisit the procedures and plug loopholes for gun ownership in the country. Only with stricter implementation of the absolute gun ban will we end election violence in the country,” she said.
There are and 1.8 million registered and 1.2 million unlicensed firearms in the country, according to police estimates.
From 1992 to 2007, 537 people were been killed in election-related violence.