Cotabato City, Mindanao, Philippines – As the Philippines prepare to vote in mid-term polls on May 13, tensions and expectations are rife in Mindanao, the second-largest and the southernmost island of the Philippines. The region has been a hotbed of separatist conflict that has claimed more than 120,000 lives.
The ongoing peace process between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has ended four decades of separatist conflict in the southern Philippines. In addition to national, municipal and provincial posts, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is set to elect a regional governor and one regional vice-governor.
Election-related violence marred the 2010 presidential polls: According to the Philippines National Police, 51 people died in election violence, including candidates and civilians. And in the run-up to the polls, 57 people were killed in what is known as the Maguindanao massacre.
Rido, or clan clashes, which continue to plague the southern Philippines, are further aggravated during election seasons. In one of the bloodiest attacks during the campaigning, gunmen attacked a mayor and his convoy on April 26. This rido attack led to the death of the mayor’s daughter and 12 other supporters; the mayor was injured.
In the latest election incident report, the Philippines National Police (PNP) revealed it has arrested 3,000 individuals at nationwide checkpoints set up by the COMELEC (Commission on Elections). Between January 13 and May 7, the PNP arrested 2,809 civilains and 130 security guards for violating the COMELEC gun ban. A total of 2,972 firearms were confiscated.