Security alert in deadly Philippine village elections
People line up to vote at an elementary school in Manila on October 28, 2013
Poll officials said about 336,000 village chief and councillor posts were up for grabs in the country's dynamic but corrupt brand of democracy, where politicians are infamous for employing private armies to kill or intimidate rivals.
While villages are the smallest government units, they are hotly contested because they allow major political parties to cultivate a grassroots network and widen their support base.
"There has been violence due to intense political rivalry, with emotions running high on the ground between rivals," national police spokesman Reuben Theodore Sindac told AFP.
He said 22 people had been killed in the four-week run-up to the polls, half of them incumbent politicians running for re-election.
The latest reported fatality was the brother of a candidate for village chief, who was gunned down Sunday on Basilan, a violence-plagued island in the south of the country that is a stronghold of Islamic militants.
Twenty-seven other people were hurt in election-related violence across the country, including two policeman and two election officers who were ambushed by unidentified gunmen in the central island province of Masbate on Sunday.
Despite efforts by President Benigno Aquino to curb the power of political warlords and their private armies, Sindac said this year's violence was worse than the last village polls in 2010, when 15 people were killed.
"We have intensified our efforts to protect the security of everyone," Sindac said.
The armed forces deployed about 6,000 soldiers to four provinces in the restive southern region of Mindanao that were perennial "hot spots" of violence, said regional military spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso.
Still, this did not deter armed supporters of some candidates from carrying out "isolated cases of intimidation and coercion of voters", he said.
He said troops were particularly watching a remote village in the town of Buldon, where 17 rivals were vying for the single post of village chief.
"Unidentified gunmen razed to the ground the elementary school there that was to serve as a polling precinct," Hermoso said.
"But voting still continued elsewhere, so they instead let off rounds of gunfire to scare off voters today."
He said troops gave chase but the suspects escaped.
Police were also guarding polling booths across the country.
Unlike the last presidential and congressional elections, where vote tallying was done automatically, Monday's polling reverted to manual counting.
The automatic polling had been widely considered a success in reducing violence, as it largely denied politicians the opportunity to tamper with ballot boxes.
The election commission said there were already reports on Monday morning of some candidates' supporters snatching ballot boxes in far-flung communities in remote islands well-known for election cheating.
In November 2009 58 people were killed in the Philippines' worst political massacre when followers of one powerful Muslim clan and journalists were gunned down by a rival political family.
The Commission on Elections said up to 800,000 candidates contested positions on Monday in over 42,000 villages spread across the country.
It said it expected more than 70 percent of the country's 54 million registered voters to go to the polls.
MORE REGIONAL NEWS
Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn
Thousands of South Africans attended Nelson Mandela's memorial service in Soweto's stadium on Tuesday with some saying it was a day of celeb... More Thousands of South Africans attended Nelson Mandela's memorial service in Soweto's stadium on Tuesday with some saying it was a day of celebration of the life of their former president, rather than a day of mourning.
Date 3 mins ago, Duration 0:55, Views 0