As election violence in Samar escalates, governor seeks DILG help

MANILA, Philippines – Less than two weeks away from election day, local bets from Samar, listed as one of the country’s election hot spots, are asking the national government to intervene and help stop election-related violence.

Incumbent Governor and reelectionist Sharee Ann Tan said on Tuesday, April 26, the local police force has not acted on the suspected politically motivated killings, which have remained unsolved.

“The National Bureau of Investigation had already started conducting investigations on these cases. The letter we sent to the Provincial Director of Samar was not received by them, while the letter to the Regional Director of the PNP [Philippine National Police], copy furnished the PNP Director General, remains unanswered. Until now, cases remain unsolved and uninvestigated,” Tan said in a statement.

According to her, there have been 5 supporters killed and two local leaders harmed during the election period alone.

Two houses owned by Tan’s allies in Sta Margarita town were also shelled on April 24, her camp said. Most of the incidents occurred in Calbayog City where Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mel Sarmiento was former mayor.

Tan is running under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) but her family, a prominent political clan in the province, is allied with the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Aside from independent candidates, Tan is opposed by Emil Zosa of the Liberal Party, where Sarminento is a member. (READ: Who is running in Eastern Visayas | 2016 Elections

“It is a big disappointment that the PNP is under the DILG and the Secretary of DILG is from the province of Samar, to be specific, the first district of Samar, where this series of violence happened and continues to happen,” she added.

‘Taken for granted’

Tan ally, Board Member Allan Jomangay of the first district of Samar, said that Sarmiento, as head of the police force, has “taken for granted” the atrocities happening in his own hometown. (READ: Rising violence, fear in Samar ahead of polls

He said they are trying to ask for Sarmiento’s help to make someone accountable for the loss of lives in their area.

“Ang result of investigation, ang [pagpatay] ay because of personal grudges and when we claim because it is political in nature, sasabihin nila isolated incidents,” Jomangay said in a news conference at the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Jomangay spoke in behalf of Samar Representative Milagrosa Tan, mother of Governor Tan.

(The result of [the] investigation shows that the killings are caused by personal grudges, and when we claim it is because of politics, they say these are isolated incidents.)

He also disclosed that even if Samar is under the control of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), checkpoints are not manned. There have been no reports of arrests of persons using guns despite the election gun ban.

Additional deployment 

The DILG defended Sarmiento, saying that the secretary has deployed more officers to man the area.

“He took the actions already. What he did was immediately create a task force to disarm private armed groups (PAGs). There was also additional deployment in that area,” the department’s information office told Rappler in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Unable to cite specific numbers, the media bureau said the PNP Regional Special Operations Task Group has already dismantled several PAGs in the area. –

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.