PNP confirms 2 election-related killings in Samar

By Roel Amazona

May 2, 2018, 12:57 pm

PALO, Leyte -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office here confirmed on Wednesday that the April 27 shooting in Calbayog City involving a local candidate is an election-related incident.

Police Regional Office-8 (Eastern Visayas) deputy regional director for operations Senior Supt. Leonardo Suan said the police found the incident to be poll-related based on initial investigation.

Citing investigation report, Suan said the victim Christopher Branzuela, who is running for village chief this coming elections, and his father Melanio were fatally shot by motorcycle-riding men in an isolated area in Catabunan village, about 30 kilometers away from the city proper.

Investigators found that the victim had a recent rift with a fellow resident in Catabunan village, who opposed his plan to vie for the post. The police official declined to name the suspect.

“The Calbayog city police will file criminal charges against the suspect within this week,” Suan said.

The official said that digging deeper on the motive of the killing allowed them to declare the shooting incident as election-related.

“We have to establish first the motive by gathering pieces of evidence and testimonies of witnesses to know the real purpose why the victims were killed. Even if the victim is an elected official or a candidate, the PNP cannot immediately declare that the incident is election-related,” Suan said.

The Calbayog incident is the second election-related violence recorded by the PNP.

The first was in Matuguinao, Eastern Samar where two village council members were killed.

Nine villages in Calbayog City and six villages in Matuguinao municipality are among the areas in Eastern Visayas under election watch list by the regional police.

PNP record shows that Samar province has 68 villages under the “election area of immediate concern” while 14 villages from two towns and one city under “election area of concern”.

Based on Commission on Elections Resolution No. 10077, a village is labeled as an area of concern if it has a history of violent political rivalries. A community is tagged as an area of immediate concern if there are serious threats posed by the New People’s Army, private armed groups, and terrorists.

Samar towns included in the watch list are Basey, Calbiga, Daram, Gandara, Hinabangan, Jiabong, Marabut, Motiong, Paranas, San Jorge, San Jose de Buan, Sta. Margarita and Talalora.

To ensure that the coming election will be less bloody, the PNP sent 180 policemen as augmentation force to Calbayog City to secure elections. This is in addition to the 102 policemen and hundreds of soldiers assigned in the city.

“You will notice that in previous elections, there are shooting incidents in Calbayog and nearby areas almost every day. This year, the place is more peaceful and we hope that this will continue until the election period is over,” Suan added.

Calbayog is a first-class city in Samar, with a population of 183,851 in 157 villages. It is the third largest city in terms of land and water areas in the Philippines. (PNA)