Seven dead in Philippine election-day violence

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MANILA, Philippines — At least seven people were killed while a presidential aide survived an ambush during mid-term elections in the Philippines on Monday, authorities said.

The Philippines is infamous for a brutal brand of democracy in which politicians — particularly at local and provincial level — are willing to bribe, intimidate or kill to ensure they win.

All of the deaths on Monday were in the violence-plagued south, where a Muslim separatist insurgency has been waged for decades and political warlords employ private armies.

In the most violent incident, supporters of rival candidates for mayor on a small southern island in the Sulu archipelago opened fire on each other, leaving three combatants dead, local police and a military spokesman said.

Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a vehicle carrying voters on the nearby island of Jolo, killing the driver and wounding four passengers, said provincial police chief Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra.

Three supporters of a local candidate were killed and eight wounded by unidentified gunmen in another attack in Zamboanga del Sur, a separate province in the south, the regional military chief said.

Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino’s political adviser, Manuel Mamba, escaped unharmed after his convoy was attacked in the northern town of Alcala, presidential spokesman Ramon Carandang said.

He said Mamba was in the area to support a brother who was a candidate for provincial governor under Aquino’s Liberal Party.

Mamba, in a radio interview in Manila, said he saw his brother’s rival brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle as his convoy passed on the national highway.

He said he then heard shots which hit one of the vehicles in the convoy.

More than 60 people had already been killed in the lead-up to the elections, in which more than 18,000 positions — from town mayors and provincial governors to members of the nation’s legislature — are being contested.

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