Philippine voters turned out Tuesday for nationwide village elections billed as the final phase of President Corazon Aquino’s plan for political normalization.
Authorities said at least 16 people were killed in election day violence.
Aquino flew by helicopter to her hometown of San Miguel, in Tarlac province north of Manila, and cast her ballot in a schoolhouse on her family’s sugar plantation.
After voting, she said the election “is a chance for all to take part in government down to the barangay (village) level. Once again it strengthens our democracy in that people are free to choose, to vote for their candidates and to be a part of government.”
The voting is the last stage of the political normalization process Aquino began after she took power from President Ferdinand E. Marcos in a revolution in 1986.
Since taking power, Aquino has held elections for the bicameral legislature and town and provincial councils under her plan to restore democratic institutions that Marcos had dismantled. Marcos is now in exile in Hawaii.
One million candidates ran for more than 280,000 positions in Tuesday’s village council elections. Hilario Davide, chairman of the Commission on Elections, said 70% of the 29 million voters cast ballots.
Final results are expected in several weeks.
The elections were nonpartisan, but the military said the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines had actively campaigned in a bid to win 60% of the councils.
Aquino said Monday that guerrillas elected legitimately would be allowed to hold office despite their 20-year battle to overthrow the government.
The village, or barangay , councils now exercise little political power. But Marcos used them extensively to keep himself in power for 20 years, submitting to them major policy decisions in rigged referendums.