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Violent incidents go up as mid-term elections draw near in Phl

MANILA, Philippines - The ambush in the southern Philippine province of Lanao del Norte which killed at least 12 people and wounded 10 others late Thursday increased the number of election-related deaths, according to figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Based on PNP data, the death of at least 12 supporters of Nununga town Mayor Abdul Malik Manamparan raised the number of election-related deaths to 62 as of today. Manamparan and his supporters were on their way from a sortie when they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen late Thursday.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of think tank Institute of Political and Electoral Reform, said election- related violent incidents usually go up as election day approaches.

"The increase in poll-related violent incidents as May 13 draws near is to be expected. Some people do it out of desperation. They think that if they don't resort to violence, they may lose," said Casiple in a telephone interview with Xinhua.

He noted, however, that fewer politicians were assassinated and that most of the election-related violent incidents involved the staff of candidates.

"Intimidation and harassment of a candidate's staff are part of some politicians' strategy to unsettle their rivals. But fewer politicians were killed this year. This may be due to the fact that the country's leaders have sent a strong signal that they will not tolerate it," said Casiple.

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He cited the case of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona who was ambushed recently by members of the leftist rebel group New People 's Army (NPA). Guingona was wounded but two of her supporters were killed.

The incident prompted the government to send a Marine battalion in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Oriental to pursue the leftist rebels who ambushed Guingona. The government also intensified its operations against the NPAs.

"While this is incident is not really election-related, the response of the government sent a strong signal (to politicians) that they should think twice about harming their opponents," said Casiple.

Casiple said the mid-term elections this year is generally more peaceful compared to the 2010 national and location elections, as election-related violent incidents were down by 50 percent.

Meanwhile, the Philippine government appealed to politicians and their supporters to refrain from engaging in violent behavior.

The appeal was made after the ambush in Lanao del Norte and the death of a brother-in-law of a village chief in the northern Philippine province of Cavite on Thursday.

"We appeal to supporters of different candidates to just campaign for their candidates and to not engage in violent behavior which could discredit their candidates," said deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte in a news briefing.

The government, however, assured that sufficient government forces have been deployed in areas identified by the Commission on Elections as areas of concerns and "hot spots."   

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