New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas killed two soldiers and two militiamen, and wounded eight others in separate attacks Thursday on security teams delivering computer equipment for Monday’s elections, officials said.
The Philippine National Police said it had recorded 44 fatalities in 66 election-related incidents, including 58 cases of shootings that also left 38 people wounded.
More than 3,000 people have also been arrested, while 3,011 firearms have been confiscated since the Commission on Elections (Comelec) imposed a nationwide gun ban in January.
Guerrillas ambushed a government convoy that was delivering election equipment to a mountainous area near Tabuk, Kalinga, killing two soldiers, their unit commander, Col. Roger Salvador, reported.
“They did not manage to get any of the (voting) machines, but the escorts got hit,” Salvador told AFP, referring to scanners that would be used to tally votes in polling precincts.
The ambush also left six other military escorts wounded, said Senior Supt. Froilan Perez, police chief in Kalinga.
Perez said the scanners were to undergo final testing ahead of the balloting, in which more than 52 million Filipinos are qualified to vote. None of the civilian election workers in the convoy was reported hurt.
NPA rebels ambushed a second convoy delivering ballot scanners near Ragay in Camarines Sur at dawn, killing a member of a local militia force, said local Army commander Lt. Col. Michael Buhat.
Two soldiers escorting the convoy were wounded, he added.
The Philippine military has said the NPA is using the elections to raise funds by extorting money from candidates. Those who refuse to pay up are attacked, officials say.
Last month, the NPA ambushed Ruth Guingona, mayor of Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, killing two of her aides and leaving her and two policemen wounded.
The 4,000-member NPA has been waging a 44-year-old Maoist armed campaign that has claimed at least 30,000 lives, according to a government estimate.
Last week, President Aquino’s government said its peace talks with the communists had collapsed and a target of ending the insurgency by 2016 was impossible to achieve.
PNP Director Alex Paul Monteagudo said security forces had been deployed to guard vital installations like power plants, mass transportation, telecommunication infrastructure, and places of heavy public convergence as part of the election security preparations plan presented on Wednesday during a meeting with Mr. Aquino.
Full deployment of the 140,000-strong police force for election duty has been completed, he said.
Monteagudo urged the public to report possible sabotage operations on vital installations.
A massive power outage in Luzon on Wednesday was not caused by sabotage, he said, “but it only highlighted the fact that these things could happen.”
Monteagudo said that the PNP would be primarily responsible for securing vital installations in urban areas while the military will guard those in the rural areas.
However, Monteagudo said that this was “not a fixed rule” and the Regional Joint Security Control Center would still determine the “tactical deployment” of the government security forces.
“There are many factors to be considered. Each region, province and vital installation has its peculiarity. There are vital installations that have their own security force so we would just have to coordinate with them as they won’t need warm bodies. So all these factors are being factored in when planning to secure these vital installations,” he said.
“We are calling on concerned citizens… If you know something, inform the police, our Army units and other security forces so that we can preempt that… information is important to the police and the military deployed in an area. If they get wind of plans it would be better because they take measures to prevent these plans to conduct sabotage operations against vital installations,” he said.—With reports from AFP and Nikko Dizon