Peace advocates seek bloodless polls in Masbate

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LEGAZPI CITY  (13-Oct-2012/PNA) – A group advocating peace wants to break the culture of violence for the coming 2013 elections in Masbate.

“It is sad to note that in Masbate, violence had been a culture that accompanied every local election since time immemorial. Now we have a group of well-meaning citizens seeking to break that culture and ensure a bloodless 2013 polls,” Chief Supt. Jose Arne De los Santos, the police regional director for Bicol based here on Tuesday said.

The region’s Philippine National Police (PNP)along with its Masbate police provincial office is fully supporting the group called the Masbate Advocates for Peace (MAP), a church-led multi-sectoral organization formed in 2010, De los Santos said.

Composed of young professionals, students, church workers and other sectors of the society, this group, according to De los Santos played a vital role in reducing cases of election-related killings in the province during the 2010 national and local elections.

Masbate has been known as the “Murder Capital of Bicol” owing to the series of political killings that victimized not only prominent politicians but innocent followers and supporters.

Among those well-known political personalities killed were Moises Espinosa Sr. who was gunned down at the Masbate Domestic Airport on March 17, 1989 while serving as congressman of the province’s third district.

MAP has been exhorting barrio folks and all people they could reach to help change the culture of political violence as a way to end the nagging poverty confronting the province that despite its rich natural resources remains to be among the poorest in the country, De losa Santos said

According to the2009 Official Poverty Statistics of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), Masbate has a poverty incidence of42.5 percent. This makes the province the eighth poorest in the country, beating Maguindanao to the bottom list of Philippine provinces by mere 2.1 percent.

Prosperity has eluded Masbate over the years. In lieu of it has been the vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed that has placed the province on the COMELEC’s list of electoral hotspots for decades, according to De los Santos.

Like what it did in 2010 elections, MAP is taking its campaign from town to town, to gather the people for a community-based discussion on how to deal with the partisan armed groups that may be reactivated by politicians who handle them, he said.

MAP banded with a special task force of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2010 to stand between feuding candidates from political clans in Masbate. (PNA)

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