PNP sees violence rise as May polls near; figures say otherwise
By Anthony Vargas
MANILA, Philippines – Security officials on Tuesday said they expect the number of election-related violent incidents (ERVI’s) to rise as the campaign period reaches the homestretch to the May 10 elections.
The ERVI projection echoed the earlier statements of Defense secretary and National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales.
Director General Jesus Versoza, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said, however, that the recorded number of poll-related incidents this year is comparatively low as compared to reported number of poll related incidents in the two previous elections.
As of Tuesday, the PNP already tallied a total of 37 validated ERVI’s resulting in 22 deaths and 16 injuries during the first 71 days of the campaign period for national elections, which started last January 10.
Majority of the identified casualties recorded from January 10 to April 6 were supporters of candidates, according to the PNP monitoring report.
The PNP recorded a total of 130 poll-related incidents during the same period for the 2007 elections and 122 incidents for the same period during the 2004 elections.
Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, attributed the low number of poll-related incidents recorded for this year’s election period to the intensified campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups.
“We intensified our campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups since last year and this somehow helped in lessening poll-related incidents,” Espina said in an interview.
The PNP spokesman said that to date, they have already accounted for about 64% of the estimated 1.1 million loose firearms scattered all over the country and have already neutralized over a dozed private armed groups.
Despite the relative success of the election gun ban campaign, the PNP raised its alert level status on the eve of the start of the campaign period for the local elections in a bid to prevent the outbreak of ERVIs.
“We are observing different areas and we expect that there could be an increase [in Ervi’s] towards May 10,” Versoza told reporters in a chance interview at Camp Crame.
The PNP chief said that political rivalries especially among supporters of candidates at the local level are expected to intensify in the run-up to the May 10 polls.
“We are requesting the supporters of different candidates to maintain calm and avoid any altercation with the other parties and to maintain their discipline to avoid more incidents in the elections,” Versoza said.