The national election was held today. Voting hours were extended so that everyone could cast their ballot. There were dozens of casualties from political violence, including at least eight deaths. Voter intimidation is an old custom that has survived numerous campaigns to stamp it out.
The presidential election campaign was notable for all the major candidates calling for an increase in the defense budget (currently $1.3 billion) to over $2 billion a year. This is to be accompanied by a crackdown on corruption in the military, especially when it involves procurement.
In the last two weeks, two legislators have surrendered nearly a hundred firearms. These weapons were used by private militias that many politicians and businessmen have long maintained. Thousands of illegal firearms are still out there.
May 8, 2010: In the southern province of Davao del Sur, armed supporters of opposing politicians clashed, leaving two men dead.
May 7, 2010: In the south, NPA rebels ambushed army trucks delivering voting machines. The rebels were driven off, with one killed. Two soldiers were wounded.
May 5, 2010: On Masbate island, NPA rebels (or members of private militias) are making more attacks on troops and police. The militias are under pressure to disarm, while the NPA is under constant attack. More and more, roadside bombs are being used to attack security forces. This tactic reflects the growing success of the security forces in taking down rebel organizations.
May 2, 2010: In the southern province of Davao del Sur, NPA rebels ambushed an army patrol and killed two soldiers. These patrols wear down the NPA, by disrupting operations and discovering their camps. The army had thought Davao del Sur province was free of the NPA, and now there's a scramble to find out of the NPA gunmen who were encountered were local, or an attempt by NPA to get back into the province.
May 1, 2010: In the south, some 60 NPA rebels raided a copper and gold mining complex and robbed the staff, including taking the weapons of fourteen security guards.
April 30, 2010: On Basilan, troops found and attacked an Abu Sayyaf camp, killing five rebels. One soldier died, and several were wounded. Troops seized bomb making manuals (in Arabic), plus bomb making materials and other weapons.
April 29, 2010: On Basilan, four soldiers were wounded during a clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels.
April 24, 2010: The MILF has agreed to work with the army and police to reduce pre-election violence. The vote will be on May 10th.
April 23, 2010: The MILF has agreed to work with army engineers to clear the minefields the rebels have planted over the years. This would allow some 100,000 rural people to return to their homes.