The Philippine president has called on the military to help the police check rising violence ahead of the May 14 national elections. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.

President Gloria Arroyo says the armed forces will reinforce the police in efforts to stop election violence and move against those using intimidation for partisan ends. She also urges candidates to do what they can to ease tensions, and called for private armies to be dismantled.

More than 30 people have been killed in election-related violence since campaigning started in February. Unlicensed weapons, private militias and weak law enforcement are features of the Philippine political landscape and violence frequently erupts during elections.

National Police chief Oscar Calderon this week said the violence has picked up at an alarming rate and he ordered commanders in the field to take steps to prevent further killings.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye says the country should unite and bring the situation under control.

"This is a matter of grave concern. This, I believe is not only addressed to the armed forces of the Philippines, not only addressed to the Philippine National Police, but addressed to all the stakeholders, the political parties and the people," said Bunye. "We should all work together to see to it that we have clean elections."

Voters will decide on thousands of national and local posts in the May 14 elections, including the entire 230-seat House of Representatives and half of the 24-member Senate. Analysts are watching the election closely because it could change the balance of power in the House, where two bids to impeach President Arroyo have been defeated.

More than 140 people were killed in election-related incidents in the 2004 presidential race. It was one of the bloodiest votes since dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted from power in 1986.