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5 dead in early poll violence

POLL VIOLENCE. A soldier from the 1st Marine Brigade armed stands guard in front of election campaign posters in Cotabato City on Tuesday, a day after violence involving two rival political clans erupted on Monday night, leaving three dead and two others wounded.
Vito Barcelo, Charles Dantes & Joel E. Zurbano

5 also hurt in Cotabato, Masbate as Comelec calls for tighter gun control

Five people were killed—including three candidates for barangay councilor – while five others were injured in separate shooting incidents in Cotabato City and Masbate City on Monday, prompting the Commission on Elections to call for stricter measures against loose firearms ahead of the Oct. 30 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE).

“We should strengthen or intensify our operation against loose firearms more. Most importantly, the immediate arrest of those responsible for these crimes,” Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia said.

“This is a warning that we will go after all threatening and planning to perform a crime against election opponents, including private armed groups,” he added.

In Cotabato City, Nur-Moqtadin Butucan and Alfar Singh Ayunan Pasawilan – both candidates for village councilor – and Pasawilan’s supporter, Faizal Abas, were killed while installing campaign posters in Barangay Rosary Heights 12 on Monday night.

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Police Director Brig. Gen. Allan Cruz Nobleza and Cotabato City Police Director Col. Queruben Manalang then face the media as election-related violence breaks out ahead of the Oct. 30 village elections. Mark Navales

In Masbate, a farmer, Abraham Dolore was killed while Nehemias Sayam, a candidate for barangay chairman, and another resident, Jewel Sayam, were hurt in Barangay Tan-awan in Placer town.

Meanwhile, a candidate for barangay councilor, Juvy Pintor, was killedwhile incumbent barangay chairperson Joseph Martines was wounded in Barangay Maingaran in Masbate City.

Twelve suspects have already been arrested for the Cotabato shooting,while investigations are ongoing for the Masbate City and Placer incidents.

“These kinds of incidents are bothersome because our fellow Filipinos are not only hurt but also killed. Running for office must not be a cause to lose someone’s life,” Garcia said.

Despite the shootings, Garcia said this year’s election-related violence remains the lowest in BSKE history.

As of Oct. 20, two areas are under Comelec control, namely Negros Oriental and Libon, Albay, while 361 barangays are under the red category (grave concern), with most areas in the Bangsamoro AutonomousRegion in Muslim Mindanao.

Meanwhile, at least 250 BSKE candidates in Abra have withdrawn from the race.

According to provincial election supervisor Mae Richelle Belmes, most of those who quit are candidates in the SK polls who have relatives holding elective positions.

These candidates want to avoid disqualification in case they win in the BSKE, she said.

In Metro Manila, more than 8,000 policemen will be fielded to cover the voting centers in Metro Manila for the BSKE, the National Capital Region Police Office said.

NCRPO director Brig. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. assured that regular law enforcement operations will not be halted while enough policemen will be deployed to secure vital installations, streets, and other places of convergence.

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