ISABELA CITY, Basilan – A candidate for barangay chairman in Barangay Kumamburingan in the town of Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan, was killed along with 3 other people in his own home on Sunday, April 22.
It's a suspected case of election violence. The military said it has not linked the attack so far to the Abu Sayyaf Group, a kidnap-for-ransom group that has long plagued the province.
The military said witnesses reported armed men attacking the residence of former barangay captain Usan Asani at 5:30 am on Sunday.
"This attack is currently under investigation. So far we have no indicators linking this to a terror attack," said Brigadier General Juvymax Uy, commander of Joint Task Force Basilan.
The armed men only targeted Asani's house, the witnesses said. He recently filed his candidacy for barangay chairman. (READ: Barangay, SK elections 2018: Calendar of activities, list of bans)
The incumbent barangay chairman, Hernie Asao, is cooperating in the investigation. He reportedly showed up at the headquarters of the 18th Infantry Battalion in Ungkayapukan, where his M16 rifle and M203 grenade launcher were confiscated.
He will reportedly face charges of illegal possesion of firearms and violation of the gun ban.
Uy said securing the elections in Basilan is a challenge but the cooperation of residents was helpful. The elections will be held on May 14.
"We commend the cooperation of the locals and the swift action of our security forces. While we cannot commit to zero election-related incidents, our troops together with different organizations will continue to work overtime to ensure that such imminent incidents will remain isolated and resolved," he said.
"We are geared to ensure a safe and credible election this May 14," he said.
Asani was killed along with 3 other people believed to be his relatives. Their names were not released to the media.
Uy said troops were deployed to pursue the assailants. "Upon receiving reports from the locals, we immediately conducted support to law enforcement operations with our police counterparts to pursue the suspected gunmen," said Uy. – Rappler.com