Just how widespread was fraud and violence in the recently held national and local elections? Data gathered by the Patriots revealed the credibility of the elections is now questionable and that the proclamation of supposed winning presidential and vice presidential candidates, if and when it happens, would not reflect the people’s mandate.
By Alexander Martin Remollino
A broad election watchdog last week said that a shadow of doubt has been cast over the presidential and vice presidential elections.
In a news conference in Quezon City last June 16, Patriots said that based on the evidence it had seen and reports it had received before, during and after the last polls, “the May 10, 2004 elections as a whole are undoubtedly tainted.”
Speaking for Patriots, Fr. Joe Dizon noted that from precinct to provincial levels, there were problems in the conduct of the polls. Among them were the lack of election paraphernalia, incomplete lists of candidates and party-list groups, problems with indelible ink, lack of security and authenticity of election materials, unusual transport of ballot boxes and discrepancies in the numbers of registered voters and votes cast.
“All these opened the doors for widespread fraud and manipulation of election results,” Fr. Dizon, Patriots initiator, added.
Administration supporters recently projected that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would win over presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. by 1.1 million votes.
For his part, senatorial candidate Frank Chavez said, “This is the worst! In 1986 (snap elections) there was an attempt to cover up; in the 2004 election the cheating was brazen.”
“Stealing” the polls
In a documentary titled Stealing the 2004 Elections, contents of which were included in Chavez’s PowerPoint presentation, various instances of fraud and violence were reported. These were based on various media reports, as well as documents obtained from the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP or Coalition of United Filipinos) which fielded actor Poe as its presidential bet, and the Bangon Pilipinas (Philippines Arise) Movement of evangelist and presidential candidate Bro. Eddie Villanueva.
Patriots’ documentary showed a discrepancy of 341,225 votes between Poe and Arroyo in 47 municipalities in nine provinces alone. The provinces are: Apayao and Benguet in Luzon (one municipality each); and Tawi-Tawi (five municipalities), Lanao del Sur (23 municipalities), Sultan Kudarat (six municipalities), Lanao del Norte (three municipalities), Sulu (three municipalities), and Agusan del Norte (one municipality).
Excluding the municipal certificates of canvass and provincial statement of votes for Sultan Kudarat which revealed inconsistencies reaching 86,989 votes, the election returns (ERs) from the municipalities where vote discrepancies were said to have taken place credited Poe with 212,808 votes and Arroyo with 126,709. However, the certificates of canvass indicated that Poe received only 108,133 votes while Arroyo got 276,270.
The presentation of Chavez, a former solicitor general and Alyansa ng Pagasa senatorial candidate, showed scanned copies of specific election documents, many of them with erasures that were not countersigned by poll officials. There were also scanned copies of election documents from several precincts showing total presidential votes to be greater than the number of registered voters or the actual number of votes cast.
“The nationwide scale of election result manipulation could not have been possible without well-entrenched operators coming from the (Arroyo) bureaucracy itself,” Chavez said.
The documentary also noted a report from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) which estimated the number of disenfranchised voters to have reached three million. For instance, the documentary cited the case of Valencia City, Bukidnon (Mindanao), where 25,000 out of 75,000 registered voters were unable to vote. There was voter disenfranchisement in 12 provinces nationwide, as well as seven cities and one municipality in the National Capital Region or Metro Manila.
Stealing the 2004 Elections also took Arroyo to task for the use of government funds for her electoral campaign. It also contained scanned copies of purported Malacañang memoranda enlisting the participation of Cabinet officials in Arroyo’s presidential campaign – including a top-secret memorandum outlining “Oplan Checkmate,” a propaganda campaign strategy against Poe.
The plan was to project Arroyo initially trailing but gradually caching up in ratings and eventually leading in surveys. “Checkmate” also contains a strategy for discrediting Poe, the documentary claimed.
There are documents and there will be witnesses to corroborate these at the proper time, Chavez said.
Military and police partisanship
Both Chavez and Patriots noted that the military and the police engaged in partisan political activities during the polls, in violation of election laws.
Chavez’s documentary even cited a case in Sto. Tomas, Pangasinan (a province north of Manila some four hours by bus), where poll canvassers were held at gunpoint to produce results crediting Arroyo with more than 5,000 votes and leaving the rest of the presidential candidates without a single vote.
Patriots, meanwhile, cited the case of 10,000 Mangyans (a tribe native to Mindoro, an island south of Manila) who were reported by human rights groups as having been prevented by the military from voting. The 10,000 Mangyans were known supporters of the progressive party-list group Bayan Muna (People First), human rights groups said.
Patriots also noted cases of canvassing held inside military camps and military personnel serving as election inspectors. “In Mindanao and other areas, reports were received of direct military intervention in the casting, counting, and outcome of votes.”
Patriots further noted that: “The progressive party-lists like Bayan Muna and Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) paid a dear price as their members and supporters were victims of disenfranchisement through military operations, extra-judicial killings, abduction, grave threats and other forms of harassment before, during and after the elections.” Human reports said there were at least 50 progressive party-list leaders and organizers killed during the whole election period most them attributed to state forces. Scores were also reported missing.
The poll watchdog also noted that the administration’s opponents “were targets of political harassment.” It cited the case of KNP vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda who was called a “political prostitute” by former military intelligence chief Gen. Victor Corpus, and that of Poe who was accused by the police of involvement in supposed destabilization plots.
2004 polls: “bloody and dirty”
“The reports that we received from partners and from numerous calls to our monitoring centers established a nationwide pattern of dirty and bloody elections,” Dizon said. “There is evidence that the battle for the highest offices in the land is no exception. Massive cheating and terror against political opponents were utilized in attempts to thwart the people’s will.”
Patriots added, “We regret to ask: Can we blame our people if they perceive that the soon-to-be proclaimed president by the administration-controlled Congress is bogus, without a clear mandate and has stolen the electoral victory?”