The cold-blooded murder of Engr. Ermelando Torregosa, adviser to (LP) mayoralty bet for Buenavista town Roseller Banez Â who Â was shot dead in a highly crowded place in Tubigon (near McDonalds) which may Â perhaps Â signal the start of Â election-related violence in the province.
They had just filed charges against incumbent Buenavista mayor “Sampul” Tirol at the Ombudsman’s office in Cebu City.
There are already 15 provinces identified today Â as poll hot spots by the Comelec that do not include Bohol- as yet; most are in Luzon.
Luzon (Abra, Pangasinan , Ilocos Sur, La Union, Cagayan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Â Batangas and Cavite; Visayas ( Masbate and Samar) Â and Mindanao ( Misamis Occidental , Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan). As of January this year 900 specific localities were identified by the PNP.
In the 2013 elections, the city of Tagbilaran and the towns of Trinidad and Carmen were under the Â Comelec hot spots list. By law, the PNP is under the direct supervision of the town mayors. It behooves them ,however, to be clearly Â objective in recommending whether their respective places for Comelec watch list or control as the case may be. Even this early- before violence escalates.
And let us not fold our arms yet in complacency.
In our analysis of the anatomy of poll violence, three of the four ingredients that create a combustible poll situation are in Bohol. For instance, the presence of armed rebel groups- no matter how the authorities try to downplay this.Â The stern warning from the provincial police directorate for politicians not to pay “permit to campaign” shakedowns from armed groups confirm their existence, would they not?
Next is the intense rivalry between town, district or provincial candidate rivals. While their main representatives are generally abhorrent of violence, the animosity of partisanship among their followers is hard to control.
Third is narco and criminal politics. It is gospel truth that Bohol is not just a “trans-shipment” but haven of drug users and lords and ladies. The remarkable raids of the NBI, PNP and the PDEA ,in the past, are screaming headlines that the drug menace in Bohol is as real as the sun rising in the East.
The “guns-for-hire” lucrative cottage industry proves there are deadly assassins around, loose forearms and funds to finance assassinations. The authorities confirm their existence which the public had known for long.
Drug, gambling and criminal gangs ,of course, want to maintain their presence and many times political protection, overt or covert, is necessary. They can provide a powder keg reserved against candidates openly campaigning for their eradication.
Thankfully we do not have the fourth scenario where citizens are forcibly prevented to exercise their right of suffrage as is happening in the emerging democracies like Haiti, Sri Lanka and and Kenya.The Philippines was in their same category in 2009 when the Maguindanao Massacre happened.
How can poll violence be minimized? One is a strong police-community cooperation.
Second is the strong PNP-Army coordination now under the Joint Peace and Security Coordination initiatives and the Task Force SAFE ( Secured and Fair Elections).
If there are explosive local situations that are too hot to handle- remember that organized regional level Special Operations Task Force groups are in place to take over. Do not hesitate to Â inform them when local forces are paralyzed by circumstances beyond their ability to overcome.
Just as bad as violent polls are” not credible elections.” Government must be as interested Â that these do not Â happen.Â Recall that today the 47 towns and city are unified under a one communication Â round the clock community system to hopefully arrest potential poll dangers. Let us use this.
For emergency -under the army domain are , of course, the TARSIER Â (Telephone and Radio System Â Integrated Emergency Resposne) and the 1st Bohol Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion Â under Army Reserve Command chief Brig. Gen. Paolo Leo Maciano.
On the civilian side- some initiatives can also Â be undertaken.
First, candidates who are sworn to uphold the sanctity of the ballot- should sign an “Agreement for Non-Violence”. They can swear and curse in the platform in verbal debate Â ad infinitum but no physical violence to life, limb and property should be resorted to settle disputes.
Secondly, we enjoin the netizens of social media to use the power of technology. If they have clear proofs of anomalies or bad behavior (especially the violence-prone) of candidates- incumbents or not- they should expose the scoundrels for what they are and provide the light house for other people to see more clearly their poll choices.We owe it to ourselves to elect politicians that we deserve.
On the policy level, there has to be new means to ensure credible election results. Nothing can fire the anger and irritation of men than to wake up Â the next Â morning to see poll results contrary to surveys, Â logic and actual experience. This is where the vulnerability to resort to violence becomes apparent and real.
Likewise, the avenue to seek redress for election cheating and manipulation in this country needs to be fortified.Â It takes years to get poll protests to come to fruition. Just to name a few FPJ-Loren Vs GMA-Noli, Mar Roxas vs Binay and our own third district poll protest of Rep Rene Relampagos in the past third district election, just to name a very few.
The futility of seeking vindication through normal, civil means can be very frustrating for politicians.
Finally, the country should get rid of the “Winner Takes All” syndrome-where after the polls, the losers are subjected to harassment, political, personal and business- instead of being shown magnanimity in victory by the winners – which can transform men into bitter losers and spawn post poll violence.
Can we minimize poll violence. Yes we can. If we truly want to.
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