The military went on full alert Saturday to prepare for Monday's local elections. Authorities announced three more election-related slayings, bringing the campaign death toll to at least 78.
The alert by the armed forces was announced by Lt. Gen. Renato de Villa, deputy chief of staff, who also said candidates would be prosecuted if caught giving Communist rebels money in exchange for campaigning freely in rebel-controlled areas.
Soldiers, backed by police and military cadets, will guard more than 100,000 voting stations nationwide when the polls open for the election of provincial governors, mayors and other local officials, he told a news conference.
More than 160,000 candidates are running for 16,000 posts.
In Manila, a battalion of combat troops backed by armored personnel carriers were mobilized to guard against possible attacks from leftist rebels or right-wing extremists, said Brig. Gen. Alexander Aguirre, the area commander.
By the military's count, at least 78 people, including 36 candidates, have been killed in election violence since campaigning began Dec. 1. At least half of the killings have been blamed on Communist rebels.
The latest assassinations occurred Friday in Lanao del Sur province on the island of Mindanao, where 30 Communist rebels attacked the party of a mayoral candidate with automatic weapons and land mines, killing him, his running mate and his wife and wounding several others, military officials said.
They identified the victims as Diosdado Estokada, candidate of ousted President Ferdinand E. Marcos' New Society Movement for mayor of the town of Kapatagan, his wife, Pura, and running mate Genedivo Atay.