Church in Philippines helps decrease election violence

.- Church groups worked with local citizens to decrease violence during this year’s elections in the Philippines, held May 14.

In a May 15 press statement, National Police Chief Oscar Calderon said the number of violent incidents during the 2007 election totaled 217; there were 249 incidents in 2004 and 269 in 2001.

Bishop Joel Baylon of Masbate told UCA News that he was "grateful" politically motivated killings in Masbate province were "not as bad" as in the 2004 national elections.

The province, comprising a few small islands southeast of Manila, recorded 15 fatalities during this year's election period, compared with 24 in 2004.
Bishop Baylon said his diocese continues to condemn the "culture of violence in the province" and will intensify its efforts to help educate the people.

The bishop believes peace and order during the election period have improved, crediting two external factors and one internal factor: voting in Masbate was placed directly under the control of the Commission on Elections and the mass media kept close watch. Bishop Baylon cited the local Christian people as the internal factor.

"I think people here have also already started to manifest that they don't like [violence] and have started to become more vigilant," he said. The people, he said, were armed with the powerful weapon of truth and the "light of Christ."

As well, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voters recruited more than 1,000 volunteers in the province to assist in a variety of ways with the election process. Most were young people, who ran errands, such as bringing food to polling places.

Msgr. Vera Cruz is vicar general of Iligan Diocese, which covers the Lanao del Norte. He described the overall conduct of the election there as "orderly," in that no one was killed by gunfire or other violence.

Still, he called the election "scandalously shameful" because of rampant vote-buying before and during the polls, with votes selling for between 2,000 and 3,000 pesos ($42 – $63 USD).

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