Pagadian interfaith leaders condemn election-related killings
PAGADIAN, Zamboanga del Sur - The Interfaith Forum for Solidarity and Peace in Pagadian City condemned the series of election-related killings in Zamboanga del Sur, on Monday, April 29, 2013.
In a statement, different religious leaders expressed alarm over the escalating violence since local campaigns started March 29 in spite of a covenant to ensure a peaceful, honest and orderly election signed by leaders of major political parties in the province have earlier.
Signatories of the statement were Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar of the Diocese of Pagadian, Sultan Maguid Maruhom, Rev. Pastor Diosdado Marquez, Timuay Joe Macarael and local Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chairman Fr Felix Tugoy.
The interfaith leaders appealed to political party leaders and their followers to observe election laws, concentrate on discussing issues and platforms and allow voters to choose freely instead of perpetrating dirty tactics.
They reminded the public to be vigilant and prudent in protecting their right to vote, and to stay “calm for the sake of an orderly, peaceful, credible and meaningful conduct of election” on May 13, election day.
They appealed to government authorities particularly the Philippine National Police, Commission on Elections, and Armed Forces of the Philippines to take steps to stop unlawful acts.
Attacks on both candidates and supporters of Liberal Party (LP) and Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in Zamboanga del Sur have escalated as election approaches.
On April 27, a mayoral candidate in the municipality of Sominot, Proceso Estrada Jr, reportedly survived an ambush while heading home after campaigning.
The previous day, unidentified men riding-in-tandem threw a grenade at the house of NPC provincial board candidate Eddie Relacion. Fortunately, the bomb was recovered by the police and the incident is currently being investigated.
Earlier that day Nelson Escario, An LP supporter, was gunned down near his house at Purok Tinangkong, Balintawak, Pagadian City. Escario was the driver of Tyrone Singgo, who was the chief-of-staff of former provincial Gov. Aurora Enerio-Cerilles.
Singgo, along with other capitol employees, led the filing of plunder raps against against the Cerilles couple earlier this year.
Earlier in April, a niece of LP Kumalarang mayoral bet Nely Joy Molina, along with a companion, was fired upon by uknown assailants in Barangay Mahayahay, Kumalarang, Zamboanga del Sur. Molina died on the spot but her companion survived the ambush. Molina's uncle, Ruel Molina, is a co-complainant of Singgo in the graft raps.
Local LP candidates have condemned the recent attacks claiming it to be part of an ongoing harassment. They said there were still many minor incidents of violence not reported.
Several local candidates said that they are saddened by the increasing number of Facebook accounts with alleged defamatory and malicious postings against them. They claimed that the attacks were perpetrated by their political rivals.
For instance, an anonymous Facebook account “Lumad Pagadianon" has become notorious for hostile posts against local candidates. It appears to support certain local candidates, not necessarily a party, while spreading negative propaganda against the others.
(Yu has a lot …… As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water but money has more weight than blood. This really is the principle Tony Cerilles lives by. He is only after the money, especially now. It is Yu who finances the campaign.)
Due to the anonymity of the profiles, the candidates said that it is difficult to pin down those responsible for the accounts. The candidates are calling on voters to examine the platforms of those running for office.
In the 2010 elections, Zamboanga del Sur was included in the list of election hotspots but is no longer in this year’s list.
A copy of the statement from Interfaith Forum for Solidarity and Peace is found below
James Annjo Salomon is a Rappler Mover from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.