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Namfrel exec slain; poll death toll now 24
By the PDI Mindanao Bureau

AN IMAM, who served as the municipal chair of the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections in Maguindanao, was shot dead yesterday.

Justad Abdul Haq Malabarag was the first casualty among Namfrel's 250,000 volunteers nationwide.

His death has so alarmed Namfrel chair Jose Concepcion Jr. who said he would ask the Comelec to place under its control the town of Datu Piang, where Malabarag had served.

Another Namfrel volunteer, died of heart attack in the line of duty. Jose Alcasid del Corro, Namfrel chair for Sultan Kudarat.

The deaths brought to at least 24 the number of election-related fatalities since the start of the campaign, according to the Commission on Elections. The Comelec said 22 others were wounded.   In Abra alone, three people were killed over the past two days.

Malabarag was shot dead in front of his house at around 3 p.m. after a heated discussion with a still unknown person.   ''We may have to ask the Comelec to put the area under Comelec control, and to increase the number of military soldiers to secure the area. This municipality has always been a hot spot,'' Concepcion said.

But the Namfrel chair said he was still unsure whether the shooting of Malabarag was election-related.   Massoe Tan, the Namfrel vice chair in Datu Piang, took Malabarag's place.

Because of the threats, Concepcion said he was preparing insurance packages for all of Namfrel volunteers. Many of the Namfrel officers are members of the clergy and the religious.  In a statement, Namfrel said Del Corro suffered a heart attack on May 2 after visiting three towns with his wife as
part of his work with the volunteer organization.

The 68-year-old Namfrel provincial chair, who headed the poll watch group's chapter in Sultan Kudarat since 1986, was earlier asked by his family to turn over his duties because of his poor health.

In Bangued, Abra, Arthur Alcantara, 33, was shot at close range by two motorcyle-riding men Monday night. He was the campaign manager of mayoral candidate Rodolfo Mallare.

Alcantara was hit in the head with a 9mm bullet. He was rushed to a clinic in Bangued where he died two hours later.

His mother, Eleuteria Alcantara, 58, was hit in the right arm while his sister, Mercedes Tejeor, 23, a school teacher, was shot in the back.  The victims were in their house at Barangay Poblacion
Zone 3 when the armed men opened fire at them.

Abra killing. Also Monday night, a barangay captain was shot and killed in an ambush in Dolores town in Abra.

Resurrecion Talingdan, 42, barangay captain of Salucag in Dolores, was driving her jeep when her attackers opened fire. Police recovered 41 empty shells from the ambush site.  Early yesterday, the body of Maximo Tejada, a leader of a tricycle drivers' group in Bangued, was found in a vacant
lot in Barangay Sao-atan.

Tejada was reported to be a supporter of Conrado Balweg, a congressional candidate of the Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino. The killings have added to the tension brewing in Abra as Balweg, former rebel priest, and former Abra Gov. Vicente Valera step up their rivalry.

Balweg told the Inquirer that election violence in Abra was part of a plan to ''picture the province as violence-prone and to prevent people from voting on Monday.''

Police said the political atmosphere in Abra, described as the ''hottest poll spot'' in Cordillera, could erupt with more election-related killings if peace and order was not secured.

In Ilocos Norte, the Comelec asked for additional policemen in Banna town following the ambush Monday night of supporters of a mayoral candidate.  The Laoag police were placed on red alert after a bomb was thrown at the Fariñas Bus terminal in Barangay Barit in the city. Bomb threats were also received at Laoag City Hall yesterday.

The Ilocos Norte police asked for the deployment of one company from Camp Crame to maximize police visibility in violence-prone areas in the province.   Earlier, the Comelec and police placed on their watchlist the towns of Badoc, Currimao, Paoay and Pagudpud as ''areas of concern.''

The Comelec also asked police to investigate the alleged kidnapping of a supporter of a mayoral candidate in Paoay.

In Banna town, two men were hurt when their van was fired upon by armed men. The slay attempt prompted police to recommend the activation of night patrols in the town.

Four police officers in Banna were relieved from their post on charges of political partisanship. 

6 towns on watchlist
In Pangasinan, the Comelec has placed six towns on its watchlist after a series of election-related violence.  Rodolfo Itchon, provincial Comelec supervisor, said the towns of Bautista, San Manuel, Umingan, Urbiztondo, Bugallon and Binalonan were included in the watchlist.

Binalonan was included following the death last week of Mario Ng, who was running for municipal councilor.  Itchon has alerted the Pangasinan police command to closely monitor the six towns to avert another outbreak of violence.

He said the Comelec was still studying the possibility of including San Carlos City on the watchlist in the wake of the killing of Pangoloan Barangay Captain Romeo Tuazon, who was gunned down by four unidentified men last week.

Tuazon was a supporter of mayoral candidate Wilhelm Soriano of LAMMP.

LAMMP congressional candidate Generoso Tulagan has asked the provincial Comelec to place Pangasinan's third district under its control.  He also urged President Ramos to exert his power to ease the brewing political tension in eastern Pangasinan.

Election officials in Central Luzon have ordered the regional police in Camp Olivas in San Fernando,
Pampanga, to deploy more policemen and Army soldiers in Nueva Ecija following reports of intense political rivalry in four towns. Lawyer Orbito Pangan, Comelec director in Central Luzon,
asked police officials to send over additional policemen to the towns of Jaen, Gapan, Lupao and Zaragoza, all in Nueva Ecija.

Severino Santos, Nueva Ecija election supervisor, said the move was meant to pre-empt violence that could disruptMonday's elections in the towns.  The request was in addition to the 60 soldiers earlier
authorized to be fielded in the different towns of Nueva Ecija. Santos said there were cases of unresolved election-related killings in Lupao and Jaen.

With reports from Donna S. Cueto and Andrea H. Trinidad in Manila; Rolando Fernandez, Alfred Dizon, Juliet Pascual, Cristina Arzadon and Gobleth Moulic, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau; and Tonette Orejas and Anselmo Roque, PDI Central Luzon Desk


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