Lanao ambush hikes poll deaths by 20%

MANILA, Philippines – The ambush in Lanao del Norte, which killed 13 people on Thursday, April 25, increased the number of poll-related deaths by over 20%, according to data from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

PNP data as of Monday, April 22, showed 50 election-related deaths since the election period began last January 13. The ambush in Lanao del Norte increased the initial figure by around 26%, resulting in at least 63 poll-related deaths as of Friday, April 26.

The PNP has also reported a total of 76 incidents of election-related violence as of Monday. In contrast, the PNP recorded 130 such incidents throughout the whole election period in 2010.

Reacting to the ambush, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Sixto Brillantes Jr said he will coordinate with the PNP on possibly declaring Lanao del Norte an area of grave concern.

“Any time that there's an incident, we study it, then we're coordinating with the police and the military on whether to declare it an area of concern or grave concern,” Brillantes said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Before Thursday's ambush, the PNP recorded only two incidents of election-related violence in Lanao del Norte. That made up around 2.6% of the election-related violent incidents as of Monday.

For 2013, Lanao del Norte was not on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Comelec's initial list of areas of concern. It was an area of concern only in 2007 and 2010, but was not classified as such in 2004.

This year, it is also not among the list of provinces watched by the DILG and PNP for loose firearms. In Northern Mindanao, the government has monitored the most number of firearms in Misamis Occidental.

Worst since 2010

The ambush was the worst case of election-related violence in Lanao del Norte since 2010.

Data from 2010, which the PNP provided to Rappler, show only one case of election-related violence in Lanao del Norte. It was a case of ballot-switching. The PNP recorded no killings then.

Despite the ambush, Brillantes described the 2013 election-period as more peaceful than in 2010. He said election-related violent incidents in 2013 decreased by about 40% compared to 2010. “So maganda ang figures,” he explained. (So the figures are better.)

In previous elections, the PNP recorded the highest number of election-related violent incidents in 2004, when 289 such cases took place. That was for the presidential elections that pit former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against actor Fernando Poe Jr.  

It is now only 17 days before the May 13 elections. – with reports from Rey Santos Jr and Ghio Ong/

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at