At least three people have been killed in the restive southern Philippines as millions turned out to vote for village leaders following months of deadly poll-related violence.
Security forces were on high alert across the country on Monday as the long-delayed nationwide vote for more than 336,000 council positions got under way.
While villages are the lowest-level government unit, the council posts are hotly contested because they are used by political parties to cultivate grassroots networks and build a support base for local and general elections.
More than 300,000 police officers and soldiers have been deployed to secure polling stations in more than 42,000 villages.
Elections are a traditionally volatile time in the Philippines, which has lax gun laws and a violent political culture.
Two people were killed and five others were wounded on Monday outside a polling station in Maguindanao del Norte province on the southern island of Mindanao, police said.
The shootout happened during a confrontation between supporters of rival candidates for village captain, said Datu Odin Sinsuat municipality police chief Lieutenant-Colonel Esmail Madin.
In another incident, a woman was killed when a gunfight broke out after a van carrying a village captain and her supporters was stopped on a road by people backing her rival in Lanao del Norte province, the army said.
In the capital, Manila, voters waited in long lines to cast their ballots at schools being used as polling venues.
“This is important for the people … we need to be able to consult someone over our problems,” said Rosemarie Garcia in the Tondo neighbourhood.“We need somebody who is easily approachable to his or her constituents.”
Written by: Kevin Nwabueze
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