The conduct of the May 10 elections in Eastern Visayas is no different from the rest of the country. The report by an election watchdog set up by people’s organizations showed rampant fraud, violence and irregularities.
By MAUREEN JAPZON
TACLOBAN CITY – Contrary to the declaration of the Commission on Elections, Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces Army of peaceful elections in the Eastern Visayas region just a day after the polls, Task Force Bantay Eleksyon (Election Watch) said in its preliminary assessment report that the electoral exercise was marred by irregularities, fraud and violence.
Task Force Bantay Eleksyon was put up by several progressive mass organizations, among them Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma (Alliance of Small Peasants or SAGUPA), Concerned Citizens for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) and the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in Eastern Visayas (KATUNGOD-SB). A monitoring center which received complaints and reports from various cities and provinces was set up in Tacloban City and served as the regional center for the task force.
“The incidents of fraud and violence documented by the Task Force cannot be simply treated as ‘isolated cases and incidents,’” said Alex Lagunzad, spokesperson of the task force. “They need to be addressed accordingly in order not to pose ill precedents for future elections and to safeguard the people’s right to suffrage.”
Election Day violence
On election eve alone, a total of eight election-related deaths were recorded. Incidents of shoot-outs between armed groups of local politicians were also reported.
The latest was at 1 a.m. of election day (May 10) itself when a hand grenade was thrown and exploded at the Municipal Treasurer’s Office of Taft town in Eastern Samar, destroying election paraphernalia.
Unidentified armed men were also reported going around Calbayog City and Biri Island in Northern Samar, campaigning for their local candidates. Eight men linked to the armed private armies of local politicians were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.
Meanwhile, the private army of big landlord Aznar was reported to have harassed voters in Tabango, Leyte, also on May 10. A total of 60 households or 287 voters were reportedly disenfranchised, as a result of the incident.
A week before the elections, attacks against the party-list Bayan Muna and five other progressive party-list groups in the tri-media heightened.
A three-day paid advertisement was published in the region’s only daily newspaper Leyte-Samar Daily Express (LSDE) starting May 6 or four days before the elections. “It was signed by the ‘People’s Broad National Democratic Alliance,’ a never-heard-of organization,” Melvin Anino, secretary-general of Bayan-Sinirangan Bisayas said.
“The ad was consistent with the public pronouncement of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez accusing that a connection between the party-list groups and the revolutionary underground exists, which was never been proven by the former,” Anino elaborated.
Reports from Task Force Bantay Eleksyon also revealed that soldiers hanged streamers, posted computer printouts or spray painted on walls messages declaring the six progressive party-list groups as NPA fronts. One of the streamers read, “NPA Party-lists – Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Anak ng Bayan, Migrante and Suara Bangsamoro ‘Wag Iboto…Salot sa Bayan!”
Other messages were: “Isulong ang agenda ng NPA sa Kongreso!” allegedly signed by the NPA. This was evident along the Maharlika highway in the two districts of Samar, in various municipalities of Leyte Island and other parts of Eastern and Northern Samar and even in Southern Leyte and Biliran provinces.
Rampant vote-buying incidents were observed in all the six provinces of the region. Fake P1,000 and P500 bills reportedly used in vote buying were circulated in Borongan, Eastern Samar; Calbayog City in Samar and MacArthur, Mayorga, Tanauan and Tacloban City in Northern Leyte province.
A certain Lilia Cajipe of MacArthur town surrendered to local police 47 pieces of fake one thousand-peso bills allegedly used by Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council) candidates Leo Animos and Sandrex Tampil. On the other hand, two police officers – SPO2 Virgilio Capongcol and SPO3 Ibañez, also of the same town reportedly confiscated fake 500-peso bills on election day.
Vote buying in the region ranged from P30 or P50-P150 for the local positions while P100-P500 for congressional, gubernatorial and national seats. Twenty-four incidents of vote buying were recorded by the task force.
Missing ballots and snatching
Task Force Bantay Eleksyon also cited 10 incidents of ballot snatching/missing on May 10. These happened in the towns of San Jorge, Gandara, and Calbayog City in Western Samar; Mayorga and Isabel in Leyte and in the municipality of Pambujan in Northern Samar province.
Meanwhile, missing ballots were reported in one of the precincts in Brgy. San Jose, Dulag, Leyte on election day.
Fraud and irregularities
On the other hand, Task Force Pollwatch, a separate group convened by the progressive party-list groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Anak ng Bayan Youth Party and Gabriela Women’s Party in the region reported cases of fraud and irregularities.
Nestor Nirza, documentor-tabulator of the said task force, said “Incidents of dagdag-bawas (vote padding and shaving) were reported in Maydolong, Eastern Samar and Lapinig, Victoria and Lope de Vega towns in Northern Samar.”
Based on the certificates of canvass (COC), Bayan Muna garnered 101 votes in Maydolong town but in the statement of votes (SOV), the tally reflected just one vote for the said party-list. The discrepancy of 100 votes was reportedly credited for Banat, another party-list, which follows Bayan Muna in the list. Banat is the party national security aide Norberto Gonzales.
Meanwhile, while the COC of the same town reflected 92 votes for Anakpawis party-list, the provincial canvass showed zero vote for the party-list. “This is very odd since, Anakpawis provincial chairperson in Eastern Samar lives in the municipality. He would definitely vote for the party he represents,” Nirza explained.
The same trends were seen in the town of Lapinig, Victoria and Lope de Vega towns in Northern Samar. The canvass watchers filed complaints to the Provincial Board of Canvassers but said complaints were denied despite of the merit of the claims.
In Brgy. Iguid, Catbalogan, Samar, local leaders reported that Anak ng Bayan party-list was not included in the tally sheets used for counting of votes, thus neglecting the votes cast for the said party. Meanwhile, Nirza noted “In San Isidro and Villaba towns of the third congressional district of Leyte, we find it irregular that COCs do not bear the votes cast in words but only the numerical figures.”