14 killed in campaign violence nationwide
MANILA, Philippines — Fourteen people have been killed in 31 cases of election-related violence nationwide, according to the Philippine National Police.
But the number of deaths and cases of violence are significantly lower than those recorded in preelection periods in 2013 and 2016, the PNP said on Wednesday.
In 2013, 142 people died in 94 election-related incidents from January to the eve of Election Day, while in 2016, 192 people died in 106 incidents.
Aside from the 14 killed in the campaign for the May 13 midterm elections, 14 other people were injured in shootings, maulings, stabbing, strafing, harassment and robbery, said Police Col. Bernard Banac, spokesperson for the PNP.
The PNP also reported confiscating and receiving in voluntary surrender at least 1,257 firearms from various security agencies nationwide since the election gun ban took effect.
The haul was part of the over 5,000 loose firearms seized by the police since the election period began.
Also on Wednesday, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) launched “Task Force Kontra Bigay,” in partnership with the PNP, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, National Bureau of Investigation and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to speed up the investigation of vote-buying incidents and the prosecution of the accused.
“We will pursue the cases even after the elections,” Election Commissioner Al Parreño said at a press briefing.
Vote-buying and selling are considered serious election offenses that carry a prison term of not less than one year but not more than six years, as well as disqualification from voting and holding public office.
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said vote-buying remained rampant in the country because some politicians thought there were no other options left to win in a fair election.
“The vote-counting machines have proven to be tamper-proof, so politicians have now resorted to vote-buying. That is the only way to rig the system,” Malaya said.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) clarified that the teachers’ allowance and honorariums for election watch on May 13 was tax-exempt if their annual income fell below the P250,000 threshold set by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act, or the TRAIN law.
The agency said it had furnished copies of the BIR ruling not only to the Comelec but also to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
GSIS restricts lending
The state-run pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) on Wednesday said it would restrict lending to government executives and workers whose terms or contracts end on June 30.
“Over 30,000 confidential, coterminus, appointed and elective employees whose term of office expires in June will no [longer] be qualified to avail themselves of GSIS loans,” Jesus Clint Aranas, GSIS president and general manager, said in a statement.
“After the elections, however, the GSIS will immediately restore the loan privileges of reappointed and reelected officials or employees once their respective agency heads update the pension fund on the status of their employment,” Aranas said. —With reports from Jaymee T Gamil, Tina G. Santos and Ben O. de Vera