|22 slain, hundreds held and 500 guns seized ahead of Philippine village polls
Security forces were on high alert across Philippines as millions of voters went to the polls to choose village leaders, with 22 people killed in pre-election violence.
Local media reports said 588 people have been arrested for violating a gun ban.
Police have confiscated nearly 500 firearms, 4,000 rounds of ammunition, 191 knives and 68 grenades, Philippine Inquirer reported.
There are 6,216 areas of concern across Philippines, accounting for 14.7 percent of the 42,028 villages.
Poll officials said about 336,000 village chief and councillor posts were up for grabs in the country's dynamic but corrupt brand of democracy, where politicians are infamous for employing private armies to kill or intimidate rivals, AFP reports.
Villages are hotly contested because they allow major political parties to cultivate their grassroots network and widen their support base.
“There has been violence due to intense political rivalry with emotions running high on the ground between rivals,'' national police spokesman Reuben Theodore Sindac told AFP.
He said 22 people had been killed in the four-week run-up to the polls, half of them incumbent politicians running for re-election.
Twenty-seven other people were hurt in election related violence, including two police officers and two election officers who were ambushed by unidentified gunmen in the central island province of Masbate on Sunday.
Despite efforts by President Benigno Aquino to curb the power of political warlords and their private armies, Sindac said this year's violence was worse than the last village polls in 2010, when 15 people were killed.
Police were guarding polling booths across the country, while the military was called in for back-up in well-known hotspots such as the restive southern region of Mindanao.
The election commission said there are reports today of some candidates' supporters snatching ballot boxes in far-flang communities in remote islands well-known for election cheating.