Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the series of violence committed against barangay election candidates and officials

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the series of violence committed against barangay election candidates and officials

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) strongly deplores the recent series of separate incidents of violence against barangay electoral candidates in various parts of the country. As the campaign season for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections have yet to commence, acts of assault and violence have already been recorded.

The first case involves the killing of Alex Repato, an incumbent chairperson of Barangay San Jose in Libon, Albay. Repato was shot down in front of his house by an unidentified gunman shortly after submitting his certificate of candidacy (COC) at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) last 28 August 2023. Repato is the fourth barangay official in Libon who was attacked as of recent. The list includes:

  • Barangay Kagawad Reliosa Mata and her husband Alfredo Mata of Barangay Nogpo
  • Barangay Captain Oscar Maronilla of Barangay San Pascual
  • Barangay Kagawad Salvador Olivares of Barangay Bariw

The second case involves the killing of Haron Dimalanis in Midsayap, Cotabato last 30 August 2023. Dimalanis filed his COC for barangay chairman of Malingao in the Special Geographic Area in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or BARMM. According to news reports, Dimalanis was having lunch with several companions at the plaza fronting the Midsayap municipal hall, when two men began shooting in their direction before they fled on a motorcycle.

Another barangay chairman seeking reelection and a former councilor were attacked in Zamboanga on 3 September 2023. Initial police reports say that Jul-Asmad Anjawang y Mawajil and his brother Jamar Anjawang y Mawajil from Barangay Pamanasaan had been shot in their car by two gunmen who were already arrested, with another suspect who had fled during the police operation.

The latest reported case happened on 5 September 2023 in Barangay Poblacion Zone 10 in Taal, Batangas. Barangay captain re-electionist Erasmo Hernandez was gunned down by unidentified men riding a motorcycle. A Special Investigation Task Group in Batangas was immediately formed to investigate and determine whether the incident was election-related.

These cases manifest the rising numbers of election-related violence as the 2023 barangay and SK elections approach. Continued occurrences of violence against electoral candidates undermines the electoral process and negatively impacts our democracy. The culture of fear it creates can impair the people’s right to make free and empowered decisions. It also deprives them of options for representation that could improve their life and their community.

CHR is already conducting independent motu proprio investigations into these incidents to ensure justice for the victims and their families. We also note the recent actions of the Philippine National Police to collaborate with the Commission on Elections and relevant government agencies and security forces to address these cases of election-related violence.

As the primary duty-bearer, we call on the government and local authorities concerned to ensure the swift delivery of justice. Preventive mechanisms and heightened alertness are also expected to prevent similar incidents of violence and attacks, especially in hotspot areas.

A peaceful electoral process is a cornerstone of every thriving democracy. It is incumbent upon all concerned government agencies, with the cooperation of all stakeholders, to create an environment in which voters, including electoral candidates, can freely and safely exercise their right to suffrage and right to participate.