14 election-related killings recorded since February
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has confirmed at least 14 election-related killings in different parts of the country since the start of the campaign period in February.

It also noted a rise in cyber bullying, which include insulting words and grave threats, as netizens continue to express their political viewpoints  in the Internet.

During a press conference of the Bantay Karapatan sa Halalan (BKH) initiative yesterday, CHR chairman Chito Gascon said the regional offices have started their fact-finding investigations on the reported killings for the possible filing of criminal and election-related charges against the perpetrators.

Although he did not provide enough details, he said these occurred in Regions IV-A and IX and in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Secondary data showed at least 49 cases of election-related violence, including killings, assaults and harassment since June 2015.

“There (were also) reported attempted killings, strafing, harassment by armed groups and the proliferation of loose firearms in Sorsogon, Zamboanga del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi , Zamboanga City and Caraga region. These violations create an atmosphere of fear among the electorate and impede the efforts of human rights communities to achieve peaceful, transparent and credible elections,” Gascon said.

The CHR, Commission on Elections (Comelec) and other human rights groups launched the BKH yesterday to monitor and report cases of human rights violations during the election season. The BKH will deploy around 10,000 volunteers in the country, especially in election hotspots or areas of concern.

Gascon noted that no election-related human rights violation case has prospered because of the decision of victims or witnesses to stop pursuing the cases.

Aside from the election-related  offenses, the CHR will also work with the Department of Justice for the criminal aspect of the violations.

“Every single instance of election violence is a mark on our political process because in other democracies, there is no case of election violence,” said Gascon.

He said they would also look into violations committed on the Internet as a “heightened degree” of cyber bullying was noted.

Gascon stressed that while the group is for freedom in cyberspace, it has to ensure that the rights of everyone are protected.

“There should be a degree of civility in (cyber) interactions like the way we do in the physical world,” Gascon said.

On Thursday, climate campaigner Ayeen Karunungan posted on Facebook screenshots of some of the hate messages that she received from the supporters of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

She said the messages poured in after she started a campaign against the candidacy of Duterte, whom she criticized over his support for coal.

While some tried to engage her in polite conversation, she said a number sent her insults, with some even wishing her dead or raped.

“I will say this again: what concerns me most are the values we have come to uphold as a society. I am concerned how people can just say, ‘Sana ma-rape ka’ or ‘Ipapapatay kita’ like it’s nothing,” Karunungan said in a follow-up post.

“How can people just say these things to others? How can people wish other people harm? I don’t understand it. What have we become as a people? What values do we teach our children? More than what we need to change in the government, we need to take a look back at our values and what makes us human. Have we lost our humanity? It’s sad and disconcerting,” Karunungan added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines have monitored a number of pre-election violence but said that the Philippine National Police, as the Comelec’s lead deputized agency, is the record keeper of these incidents.

Joint coordination centers for the police and the Armed Forces were also set up in the provinces, especially in hotspot areas. – With Janvic Mateo, Jaime Laude


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