BAGUIO CITY—The Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) in the Cordillera is studying a plan for local candidates in the 2013 elections to campaign together to help reduce tension or violence during the election period in the region.
The council assessed the region’s security on Thursday based on a police analysis of potential election hot spots in the uplands.
Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police director, said cases of election-related violence in the region appeared to be dwindling based on statistics from three previous elections (2004, 2007 and 2010) presented by the Cordillera police at the meeting.
For example, the report said police recorded only three violent incidents in the Cordillera during the 2010 elections: Two shooting incidents and the burning of an automated poll machine.
Mayor James Edduba of Pasil, Kalinga, said a way of sustaining that trend is to ask candidates to campaign as a group to avoid fears of mudslinging or discourage an ambush in areas where there are intense political rivalries.
Among the Cordillera provinces, Abra has earned some notoriety for an increase in violent incidents during the election season, police said.
In the 2010 elections, an attack during the campaign period killed a supporter of Bangued Mayor Ryan Luna, police records showed.
Magalong said he had been in talks with the Luna family, an influential Abra clan, to find ways of curbing violence next year.
Edduba said joint campaigning among rival candidates worked for his town in previous polls but he said he had reservations about how it would work on a larger scale.
“I don’t know if we can pull together all candidates… in the provincial level. [There] may be too many talking at village forums at the same time,” Edduba said.
However, Ifugao Gov. Eugene Balitang, RPOC chair, said Edduba’s suggestion was reasonable and provincial candidates seeking the same post could work out a scheduling system.
Edduba said his experience with joint campaigning showed that most politicians would steer clear of insulting a rival who shares the stage.
He said candidates would also end up bonding and agreeing on common talking points when they debate.
The Cordillera police report to the RPOC said 42 towns in the region are under the police’s watch list. At least 26 villages have a history of poll violence and 134 others are under threat from communist rebels, he said.
Police officials said reforms and civil society dialogues with Abra politicians could mean that the province may not be placed under the control of the Commission on Elections during the election period next year.
Abra is among the 15 provinces listed by the Department of the Interior and Local Government as areas of concern for the 2013 elections.
But the Cordillera police said most of the province’s private armed groups have been neutralized or their membership diminished with the arrest of militiamen and the seizure of their guns.
The report said 62 guns-for-hire and security aides of politicians in Abra had either surrendered or retired, three had been arrested and three had been killed. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon