Monday, January 25, 2010

Bloody Trail towards 2010 Election

Bloody Trail towards 2010 Election
Patrick I. Patino
Vote for Peace 2010
11 January 2010

The year 2009 ended splattering with blood the road towards the May 10, 2010 election. The whole year of 2009 recorded a total of 33 election-related violent incidents. Conventional security observers would readily say the numbers are insignificant in the context of the whole year round and too early to conclude that the incidents are election-related as there might be other factors or motives of the acts of violence.

The numbers may be insignificant but something to be taken seriously especially if one has to look beyond the numbers. The acts of violence are planned with clear targets and clearly election-related.

Of the number of incidents, there are 84 fatalities and 40 wounded. The high number of fatalities shows that the objective of the acts is not simply to sow fear but to kill. Especially that among the victims, twenty-two are politicians (13 killed and 9 wounded) planning to run in the election; 9 security aides of the politician-victims (7 killed and two wounded). Other victims are active supporters, allies and political operators of politicians. Election officers were also targeted with 2 dead and 2 wounded.

Civilians comprise the bigger number of victims (58 fatalities and 27 wounded) but less than five of these are accidental victims or were caught in the crossfire. The majority of them were also targeted and acts of violence against them were planned. The fatalities were mostly victims of the heinous massacre last Nov. 23 in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao perpetrated by the political warlords – the Ampatuans. Most of the wounded were victims of grenade throwing and strafing at the line of voter registrants that occurred simultaneously on the same day in Lanao del Sur.

By geographical distribution, the island of Luzon accounts for 15 incidents, while the Visayas had 6 and 12 in Mindanao. In Luzon, majority of the incidents were in Masbate, Isabela and Quezon. Samar island contributed most of the incidents in the Visayas. In Mindanao, most of the incidents were from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato.

Does the above mean a violent and bloody scenario in the months going to the election? Others hope that the number of incidents in 2009 will reduce the number of incidents during the 2010 election period as political scores have been settled “unfortunately in a violent way.”

Others may say, that looking the above information the other way is pessimism or sowing fear. The intent here is to call all concerned to act on the matter.

The last quarter of 2009 alone had 16 incidents of the total 33 the whole year. Does this mean that while election fever heats up, hot blood for violence also boils high?

The problem is that contributing factors of election violence remain. For a number of traditional politicians and vested interests, election is not about competition for position but a war for political power. Political dynasties and warlords still abound
and election is the time for expanding political turf and/or settling old score among warring political clans. Despite the PNP campaign last year to control the proliferation of loose firearms, there is an estimated 700,000 unlicensed firearms all over the country. There are 170 private armed groups the police force is running after outside of the other armed criminal groups and political armed groups whose services are readily available to violence-oriented candidates and political operators.

The 2010 National and Local Election is a historical period for the Filipino people. The election is about re-strengthening electoral democracy and more importantly looking forward to the next decade. Elections can be fair and free without violence and coercion. It is time to exact political and electoral costs to the perpetrators of violence and charge them of the consequences of their actions like the Ampatuans of Maguindanao and former Abra Gov. Vicente Valera. All election stakeholders and centers of legitimization like the Bishops, the Ulamas, the police hierarchy, the election officials, the media, the academe, the private sector and civil society formations should join efforts at containing election conflict and violence. Everyone must go beyond partisan interest and call the attention of all candidates and parties to play according to election and security rules. xxxx

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