Were the 2007 elections less violent?

THERE were fewer cases of electoral violence during this year’s election period compared to previous polls. That is according to the Philippine National Police (PNP) which recently released its final report on election-related violent incidents (ERVIs). An election monitoring group, however, disputes this claim, saying that poll violence was more widespread than had actually been reported.

From January 14 to June 13, 2007, the PNP’s Directorate for Operations recorded 229 ERVIs, fewer by 20 and 40 cases than the 2004 and 2001 polls, respectively. The incidents, despite an enforced gun ban, resulted in 121 deaths, as well as injuries to 176 more people. There were also two cases of missing individuals.

TABLE 1: COMPARATIVE STATISTICS
ON ELECTION-RELATED VIOLENT INCIDENTS
2007 2004 2001 1998 1995
No. of Cases 229 249 269 267 121
Killed 121 148 111 67 79
Wounded 176 261 293 162 111

Source: Philippine National Police

Majority of those killed were supporters of candidates (49), though the death toll included 26 politicians, 11 candidates, 14 civilians, 20 policemen and a soldier. Candidates’ supporters also topped the list of injured at 62, followed by civilians (54), policemen (34), politicians (17), candidates (7), and soldiers (2).

TABLE 2: COMPARATIVE STATISTICS
ON CANDIDATE/POLITICIAN CASUALTIES
2007 2004 2001 1998 1995
Killed 26 40 21 14 9
Wounded 17 18 9 13 1

Source: Philippine National Police

This year’s poll violent incidents involved cases of shooting (105), explosions (16), ambushes (11), harassment (50), burning/arson (5), ballot-snatching (7), and communist/terrorist-perpetrated atrocities (3).

TABLE 3: COMPARATIVE STATISTICS
ON TYPE OF ELECTION-RELATED VIOLENT INCIDENTS
TYPE OF INCIDENT 2007 2004 2001 1998 1995
Shooting 105 111 70 59 26
Explosion 16 28 30 15 20
Communist/Terrorist Atrocity 12 22 34 5 7
Others (ambush, harassment, burning/arson, ballot snatching, encroachment, etc.) 86 88 135 188 68

Source: Philippine National Police

But Bantay Elekyson 2007, a coalition of various electoral stakeholders formed by the Consortium on Electoral Reform (CER) to conduct an independent and comprehensive monitoring of the recent elections, cast doubts on the PNP statistics.

“Election violence in the 2007 elections was widespread and affected elections in many local areas up to the provincial level,” the group claimed in its report on the results of its poll monitoring early this week.

By its own monitoring, which compiled reports on election violence by the PNP, the media and its own field reports, Bantay Eleksyon placed the number of ERVIs at 285 covering the period from January 14 to June 12, 2007. These incidents — 85 murder/ambush, 17 shooting, 53 intimidation/harassment, and 16 explosion cases, among others — corresponded to a higher death toll of 129, particularly among candidates’ supporters (62), and caused injuries to at least 177 people and subjected 80 others to various violent incidents.

TABLE 4: BANTAY ELEKSYON MONITORING OF 2007 ELECTION-RELATED VIOLENT INCIDENTS
No. of Cases 285
Killed 129
Wounded 177*

* Possibly more than indicated as some reports don’t have the exact number of wounded victims

Bantay Eleksyon’s data also had five personnel/deputies of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) among the dead. Its list also accounted for more wounded civilians (73) and uniformed personnel (45).

TABLE 5: BANTAY ELEKSYON CASUALTY COUNT
TYPE OF VICTIM KILLED WOUNDED SUBJECTED TO VIOLENT INCIDENT
Incumbent/Politician/Candidate 34 14 16
Supporter 62 28 43
Comelec Personnel/Deputy 5 4 1
Uniformed Personnel 14 45 5
Civilian 14 73 12
Groups 3
Others 12
TOTAL 129 177* 80

* Possibly more than indicated as some reports don’t have the exact number of wounded victims

The group had earlier questioned the way the PNP later was issuing statistics to the media only on incidents confirmed to be “politically motivated.” For the 2007 polls, the PNP introduced three subcategories of ERVIs: “politically motivated,” “not politically motivated,” and “for validation.”

In fact, the PNP’s report on ERVIs has a separate table of statistics on “politically motivated” incidents during the election period. The tally had 146 cases that accounted for 75 dead, 129 wounded and two missing persons.

Bantay Eleksyon convenor Ramon Casiple argued that this precluded any comparison with earlier PNP issuances regarding ERVIs, which had always been used in previous elections. “It had the effect of downplaying electoral violence statistics,” said Casiple.

A staff at the PNP Directorate of Operations told the PCIJ that some 60 cases which turned out to involve family feuds, land disputes or personal grudges were considered “not politically motivated.” The rest categorized under “for validation” were eventually assumed to be “politically motivated” cases.

Casiple, also the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER), though questioned the wisdom of declaring a good number of cases as “not politically motivated” especially since the incidents involved barangay officials. He said that credence should also be placed on the fact that as barangay officials, they were also acting as political wards of local and national candidates during the election period.

Still, Bantay Eleksyon is of the view that whatever statistics are used, the level of election violence remains alarming. The group likewise noted a chilling development about election personalities, whether candidates, government officials or election officers, increasingly becoming targets of poll violence.

“It appears that deliberate murder has become part of the repertoire of campaign strategies to win elections,” Casiple said, adding that the violent incidents should also be taken in the context of unresolved extrajudicial killings happening under a “climate of impunity” in the country.

Casiple also made special mention of the stifling atmosphere of fear and intimidation in Maguindanao and other areas of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) where armed men are often reported in the vicinity of polling places or in connection with election incidents.

“In ARMM, the level of electoral violence affected elections in the entire region, as well as in the national elections,” Casiple said.