GMANews.tv: Philippines Failed to Redeem Self from 2004 Scandal – Int’l Observers

BY GMANews.tv
Posted by Bulatlat
ELECTION WATCH/BREAKING NEWS
May 17, 2007 – 6:15pm

The Philippine government failed to redeem itself from suspicions that it “benefited” from such illegal practices in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2004 with rampant irregularities “allowed” in the region in the May 14 midterm polls.

This was the conclusion reached by the People’s International Observers’ Mission (IOM), whose members admitted they are now questioning their belief that the Philippines is a democratic country.

“What were very obvious and undeniable was that the government failed to redeem itself from the wide belief that it benefited from these illegal practices in Lanao del Sur in particular and the entire Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in general in 2004,” IOM said.

“The Commission on Elections (Comelec), by sins of commission and omission, presided yet again over abominably chaotic elections.”

The group said “democracy was not served and the people’s deepest aspirations were not advanced in these elections,” the IOM said in a statement posted on the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) website (www.bayan.ph).

It said elections in Lanao del Sur were neither peaceful nor democratic, and its residents denied peaceful and credible elections by both the Comelec and the political interests and clans there.

The IOM Lanao del Sur Team received and verified reports of Failure of Elections in 13 of the province’s 39 towns, either formally declared by the Comelec or the elections simply did not happen.

Reasons included the absence of Election Officers (EOs) at their posts, town EOs were shuffled at the last minute, and violence, particularly killings, shootings and burnings, endangered the voters.

“In one case, because of the absence of the Municipal EO, the military took over the decision-making process, in clear violation of laws dictating their impartiality and non-involvement in the actual conduct of the elections,” it said.

The team observed rampant vote-buying inside precincts aside from peso bills stapled on sample ballots and campaign paraphernalia of certain candidates.

“Precinct ball pens even sported candidates’ names, and poll watchers sat beside voters dictating the names to be written on the ballots and passing lists of candidate through window grills,” it said.

Some poll watchers also virtually ran the polling precincts, dictating who could come in or go out the doors. The people were denied their right to freely choose their candidates.

Many voters cast ballots several times. Minors voted, instigated by supporters of candidates. “Indelible” ink easily washed off with soap and water, the team said.

Members of the Philippine National Police-Regional Special Action Force with high-powered guns caused fear among members of the IOM delegation.

Even with Comelec-issued media IDs on prominent display, signed by Chairman Benjamin Abalos himself, the media team was harassed and confronted by partisans outside the polling precincts.

“Our video camera was even hit by a congressional candidate’s supporter to prevent us from taking shots of the illegal and immoral proceedings. It was only our cameras that seemed to deter the violations taking place,” it said.

The team also noticed that teachers were forced to squat on wet grounds with no roofs over their heads at the People’s Park grounds, one of several centralized venues for vote-counting in the city.

Venues were crowded, noisy, dark, humid and absolutely chaotic. BEIs only had Comelec-provided candles to read the ballots with and make appropriate marks on tally sheets. Tally sheets were also accessible to just about anybody.

“These conditions allow honest mistakes or cheating to be committed with impunity casting serious doubts on the credibility of the process,” it said.

The team also questioned why vote-counting was held inside the Mindanao State University campus where each precinct were given classrooms of their own with adequate lighting and protection from the elements, like in past elections.

“We find no reason why Comelec did not use the same in favor of the woefully inadequate ones used this year. Absolutely no one deserves to labor under such conditions. This country has had many elections in the past and knew about the 2007 polls years before. Our hearts go out to all the teachers and honest poll workers who struggled with gargantuan tasks they were ordered to perform under near impossible conditions and tremendous pressures,” it said. – GMANews.TV/(Bulatlat.com)

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