Poll-related violence builds up significantly about 100 days before the polls open and reaches its peak on Election Day, a study by the Ateneo School of Government shows with 20 days left before the May 9 polls.
The study by the Ateneo Policy Center, which released it Wednesday, examined incidences of poll-related violence from three elections, in 2013, 2016 and 2019, using online media reports. It warned that the country may experience a surge in such incidents again this year, given the highly contested nature of these elections.
This developed as the Philippine National Police (PNP) said the shooting incident that injured five people during the visit of presidential candidate Leody De Guzman to Bukidnon province on Tuesday was “isolated” and that it was “premature” to tag it as election-related.
“We are still gathering enough evidence and determining the circumstances surrounding the incident,” PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Roderick Augustus Alba said in a statement.
Labor leader De Guzman, who returned home to Manila yesterday, said on his Twitter account that while he was safe, he could not erase from his mind the leaders and communities that welcomed him in Bukidnon amid the shooting, adding their “shared experience” would last them a lifetime.
“Binabalaan ko ang mga naghahari-harian sa kanilang pag-abuso, ngayon na mayroong nang pambansang atensyon sa laban ng Manobo-Pulangiyon at iba pang IP struggles,” he said, referring to his meeting with locals in Quezon, Bukidnon over alleged land-grabbing issues in the area.
[I am warning the ruling class of their abuses now that national attention has been directed to the struggles of the Manobo-Pulangiyon and other IP (indigenous peoples).]
“Hindi man takot ang mga naghahari-harian sa isang labor leader na gaya ko pero ang klaro ay mas malaki pa sa akin ang ating laban at doon dapat sila matakot – sa kapangyarihan ng nagkakaisang masa. Tuloy ang ating laban!” he added.
[The ruling elite may not be afraid of a labor leader like me, but what’s clear is that this fight is bigger than me, and they should be scared of that—of the power of the united masses. Our fight continues!]
Meanwhile, the Ateneo study said researchers had to use publicly available media reports because there was no publicly available data from government institutions.
“The PNP, the agency tasked with collating and reporting on election-related violence, has not disclosed to the general public incident level data on election-related violence in those election years, hence, the need for this independent dataset to measure the gravity of this phenomenon in the country,” the study said.
As of June 2021, the study counted 351 incidents of election-related violence from 2012-2019. Most—or 195—of the recorded incidents were lethal or resulted in at least one death.
The study said 77 percent or 63 out of 81 provinces were reported to have at least one election-related violent incident during that period.
Among the hotspots for election-related violence were Malabon City, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Batangas, Quezon, Masbate, Nueva Ecija, Ilocos Norte, Abra, La Union, and Isabela.
The study found that most of the incidents targeted incumbent public officials seeking re-election. They were followed by ordinary citizens or known supporters of candidates. Other targets were armed groups, civil society, and foreign nationals.
The study found a build-up of violent incidents targeting public officials just days before the election. On election day, however, ordinary citizens were targeted the most.
A significant number of violent incidents targeted public officials right after the election date. Most of these targets were candidates waiting for election results or poll officials.
Most of the perpetrators were unidentified assailants, such as unidentified gunmen, motorcycle-riding gunmen, assassins, or hired guns.
Provinces in which political dynasties held sway—where relatives simultaneously held multiple local elective positions—were more likely to exhibit a higher number of incidents of election-related violence, the study said.
The study said the country needed an urgent policy response to ensure both short and long-term integrity in its electoral democracy.
Long-overdue reforms aimed at limiting political dynasties, which have spread across all local elected positions, were urgently needed, the study said.
The study also called for stronger legislation to control ownership of firearms and the establishment of private armies.
On Wednesday, the PNP deployed more officers to areas in Bondoc Peninsula in southern Quezon province and in Pangasinan in northern Luzon.
PNP chief Police Gen. Dionardo Carlos said they have been deploying Regional Special Operations Task Groups (RSOTGs) in areas of concern as early as March 8,
Carlos said they also deployed these groups to election areas of concern, such as Samar and Masbate.
On Monday, the PNP said only the municipalities of Tubaran and Malabang in Lanao del Sur were placed under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) due to threats to the May 9 elections.
The PNP released a list of 114 areas considered “red areas,” which will have more patrols and checkpoints.
Vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte condemned the violence that marred de Guzman’s campaign sortie.
Senator Leila de Lima, seeking re-election, called for a swift and serious investigation into the shooting incident.
A spokesman for the PNP urged candidates to coordinate with them for their security and safety.