The Other Philippine Election Tally: the Dead and Wounded
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Votes in last week’s presidential election are still being counted to the sound of gunfire in the Philippines, a nation where politics is played with tribal fierceness.
Violence and death have traditionally characterized elections here.
A military news release Wednesday said 86 Filipinos were killed and 44 wounded in election-related incidents from the opening of the campaign on Dec. 6 to Tuesday, four days after the Feb. 7 voting.
The Philippine News Agency reported 107 deaths, but the military said unofficial counts contained duplications.
The military said 74 victims were civilians, including 35 followers of President Ferdinand E. Marcos and 20 supporters of opposition candidate Corazon Aquino. At least two victims were pollwatchers for the private citizens’ watchdog group National Movement for Free Elections, or Namfrel. The rest of the civilians killed were of undetermined political affiliation.
Ten soldiers and two people suspected of being communist guerrillas died in ambushes and encounters directly related to the election.
The latest prominent victim was Evelio Javier, a former governor and campaign leader for opposition candidate Corazon Aquino. Javier escorted Teddy Kennedy, son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., around Antique province on election day.
Masked men shot Javier as he chatted with friends Tuesday outside the provincial capital, where the canvassing of votes was being held.
He was wounded in the first volley. He then ran to a nearby house and hid in a bathroom, where the assassins finished him off, witnesses said.
Scores of Filipinos are killed in every campaign, and a total of 130 died in the campaign for the National Assembly election in 1984.
Seven of those killed in 1984 were men working in Javier’s campaign when he ran for the National Assembly. They were ambushed on election eve. Javier said the gunmen were led by his political rival, Arturo Pacificador.
Pacificador now sits in the National Assembly where he is the assistant majority floor leader and a powerful political operator for Marcos. Pacificador denies any involvement in the 1984 killings and branded as ″ridiculous″ accusations that a car belonging to him was used by the men who killed Javier on Tuesday.
Javier had filed sworn statements alleging multiple murder against Pacificador, six soldiers, and a civilian in the 1984 deaths.
The Philippine News Agency quoted a Justice Ministry official as saying Tuesday that the case would be referred to the government ombudsman for further investigation to see if available evidence warrants a trial, but it did not say when the referral would be made.
A spokesman for Mrs. Aquino said earlier the case is ″dead in the water.″
The military listed 51 deaths in campaign violence before last Friday’s vote, 30 on election day itself, and five following the election, when disputes over vote counts inflamed political passions.
Election day victims included four unidentified men who ambushed a tank escorting election officials; a pro-Marcos town mayor; two Aquino supporters; a woman judge, and a volunteer worker for Namfrel who tried to stop men from snatching a ballot box. Another pollwatcher was killed after complaining about cheating.
The day after the election, Artemio Fernandez, 41, a brother of opposition Assemblyman Jolly Fernandez, was shot dead outside the local election commission office on Masbate island.
The Fernandezes had complained about election fraud. Newspaper reports said the gunman was a Constabulary sergeant who went into hiding.
In Cebu city on Tuesday, police said a man settled an argument with his neighbor, Federico Anoza, 32, over who won the election by shooting and killing Anoza.
All but one of the 86 deaths occurred in the provinces. The only death in Manila was Arsenio Toribio, 20, shot by a sniper as he held up a ″Marcos concede″ sign aboard a flatbed truck where Mrs. Aquino had been sitting an hour earlier.
Foreign correspondents who roamed the capital on election day reported incidents of armed men harassing residents and poll officials.
One widely published photograph showed an unidentified man aiming a gun at the head of an opposition worker who tried to stop Marcos supporters from bringing ″flying voters″ into a precinct. Flying voters go from precinct to precinct, balloting each time.
At a memorial service Wednesday, Msgr. Nico Bautista held up to the congregation an enlarged newspaper picture of Javier’s body lying in a pool of blood.
″This is not the first time we have seen people dying this way,″ Bautista said.
A friend of Javier’s read out a letter Javier wrote the day before he was killed, telling party officials that Mrs. Aquino won in his province.
″I shall accompany (the) returns to Manila. Pleasant dreams,″ Javier had written.