Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Polls generally peaceful; violence minimized -- PNP, AFP

Gerard S. dela Peña

SECURITY OFFICIALS yesterday said the elections were generally peaceful, albeit with pockets of violence and confusion among voters and election supervisors on the new system.

Chief Superintendent Leonardo A. Espina, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman, told a Palace briefing yesterday that the police recorded 82 incidents of poll-related violence from the start of the election period on Jan. 10 until yesterday, broken down into 67 casualties, or 27 deaths and 40 wounded.

The figure was significantly lower than the 166 incidents with 310 casualties during the 2004 general elections, and against 181 with 68 casualties during the 2007 midterm polls.

"This is the most peaceful elections so far," Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said in the same briefing.

The two security officials also noted that crime rate went down by about 20%-30% during the Jan. 10-May 10 election period compared with year-ago levels due to the gun ban.

Requiring only uniformed personnel to carry firearms, Mr. Espina explained, made it easier for authorities to track violators.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) imposed the ban under Resolution 8714 issued last December 2009. The order required police and military personnel to be in uniform while carrying firearms.

Mr. Nepomuceno said the resolve to eliminate private armed groups that threaten the elections has also helped maintain relatively peaceful elections.

The Independent Commission Against Private Armed Groups, led by retired Court of Appeals judge Monina Arevalo Zenarosa, has delisted nine private armies, arrested 130 members, and confiscated a total of 127 firearms as of May 6.

As to the reported explosions in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, Mr. Espina said these were isolated cases and only meant to sow fear among locals.

"No one was hurt and that did not affect the overall situation in Mindanao. The AFP and PNP are coordinating to ensure [peace and order] even after this exercise," Mr. Nepomuceno said.

The massacre of 57 civilians in Maguindanao last November was not included in the computation of casualties from poll-related violence as the murder was committed outside the election period that started on Jan. 10, Mr. Nepomuceno added.

Commenting on the statements of the two security officials, acting Education Secretary Mona D. Valisno, who was also present at the same briefing, said: "We are pleased with the turnout of the events."

She said that teachers who are acting as members of board of election inspectors have adjusted to the realities on the ground, which "allowed for the voting across the country to proceed as planned."

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