Ramos Coalition Boasts of Lead; Death Toll Rises
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Buoyed by early leads, President Fidel Ramos’ coalition boasted today it would capture at least 10 of 12 Senate seats in national elections. But 38 election-related deaths tempered the euphoria.
Former first lady Imelda Marcos led the race for the House of Representatives from Leyte Island even though the Commission on Elections had disqualified her. She was permitted to run while her appeal was pending.
Ramos, seeking victories that would strengthen his position, warned that Filipinos must ``clean up our political culture,″ long marked by violence and fraud.
The death toll rose sharply as reports of violence came in from across the country. Police said 38 people had been slain since the eve of Monday’s balloting, bringing the number of politics-related deaths this year to at least 70.
Complete, official results from Monday’s election are expected in three weeks. Early, unofficial tallies by media and church groups showed Ramos-backed candidates leading for 10 Senate seats.
Voters on Monday chose 12 senators, 204 members of the House of Representatives and thousands of local officials. Candidates included Mrs. Marcos and her son, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Indications of a 10-2 Senate win are ``the worst the coalition expects,″ spokesman Ruben Torres said.
``If the early election results hold, and we are confident they will even improve, then the people have given the president a resounding approval for his economic and political reforms,″ Torres said.
Senators are elected nationwide; House members are chosen by district.
Unofficial returns showed Marcos Jr. dropping further behind in the Senate race. With less than 5 percent of precincts reporting, the unofficial National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) showed him in 17th place.
Marcos Jr., running with the opposition National People’s Coalition Party, accused Ramos’ government of deliberately withholding election returns that favor the opposition.
``Bogus election results can be disastrous,″ Marcos Jr. said today in a statement. ``It could only mean the administration is up to something sinister, and I hope this fear is incorrect.″
NAMFREL stopped issuing results briefly today after news organizations cited inconsistencies. It resumed reporting about an hour later.
Elsewhere, rivals traded fraud charges during the cumbersome vote count. The Commission on Elections said it was investigating numerous reports of vote-buying and ballot theft. Hundreds complained their names had disappeared from voter rolls.
The most serious election trouble occurred in predominantly Muslim areas of the southern Philippines.
The military reported six marines were killed late Monday while pursuing gunmen associated with a mayoral candidate on Jolo Island in the south. Clashes between rival factions of a Muslim clan postponed balloting in the area Monday.
In other election-related unrest:
_Nine people died Monday in Cagayan province, 250 miles north of Manila.
_In Mabini, about 30 miles south of Manila, gunmen killed a member of the Board of Canvassers today when she refused to surrender a ballot box, police said.
_A former mayor of the Cagayan town of Claveria was killed when a grenade exploded as he wrestled with a man before polling began. No details were available on the election-related death of a man in Enrile, another Cagayan town.
_Late Monday, a grenade exploded at a school in Maguindanao province where ballots were being counted, killing one person. A candidate’s relative died in an ambush Monday night in Capiz province, police said.
_Angry crowds threw stones at police in Angeles City, former home of the U.S.-run Clark Air Base, to protest alleged vote fraud. They were dispersed early today, but at least 25 people were reported injured and vote counting was suspended for several hours.
_In Olongapo City, former site of the U.S. Subic Bay naval base, police fired a water cannon late Monday to disperse 1,000 opponents of a mayoral candidate.
Ramos’ Senate ticket includes three children or grandchildren of former presidents: Raymond Magsaysay Jr., Sergio Osmena III and Gloria Arroyo.
Magsaysay’s father was president when he was killed in a plane crash in 1957. Osmena’s grandfather and namesake served as president of the Philippine Commonwealth at the end of World War II. Arroyo’s father, President Diosdado Macapagal, was defeated by the elder Marcos in 1965.