By BENJIE OLIVEROS
I stand corrected. In a previous analysis “Has the Country Achieved a Clean, Honest, and Democratic Elections,” this writer concluded that except for the long queues, election automation was able to fix the voting process in the precinct level by making the tabulation and transmission of results smoother such that the job of poll watchers has become boring. However, after listening to the reports of the recently-concluded Peoples’ International Observers Mission, it became clear that while in the National Capital Region, voters only had to contend with the long lines and some missing names in official voters’ lists, voters in the provinces had to confront the same old fraudulent process called ‘elections’ even at the precinct level.
The largest delegation of foreign election observers ever to visit the country was divided into teams that went to Abra in Northern Luzon, Pampanga and Tarlac in Central Luzon, Cavite and Quezon in Southern Tagalog, Albay and Sorsogon in the Bicol region, Iloilo in the Visayas, Davao, Surigao and Lanao del Sur in Mindanao, Tondo and Payatas in the National Capital Region. To cover more polling centers they further subdivided into teams with local members of peoples’ organizations. What the different teams saw was the same all over the country. The following are the findings of the foreign observers’ mission regarding what transpired in polling places and precincts.
1. There was a sore lack in the preparations.
– There were too few PCOS machines, with many incidences of breakdown, paper jam, and overheating. The foreign observers discovered that Smartmatic purposely did not install cooling fans in the machines to cut on costs. In Davao, 24 out of 64 PCOS machines failed to transmit returns.
PCOS machines were being delivered up to the day before the elections.
– There was a lack of teachers serving as BEIs and an outrageous lack of technicians, with one technician handling many clustered precincts
– Modems, which were being used to transmit the results were also sorely lacking, with one modem being used for more than one precinct
– There were no back up plans.
– There were no systems to facilitate the voting process of the elderly and the differently abled.
– In one area, ballots had to be manually trimmed to fit into the PCOS machines. in Iloilo, the ballots delivered were for another place.
2. There was general chaos and confusion in the voting process
– There were no uniform procedures in the voting process. In some cases procedures changed mid-day
Overcrowding and long queues under the scorching heat were monitored everywhere. In some cases there were lines that go nowhere. There were too many voters per clustered precinct
– There were a lot of missing names in voters’ lists.
People without IDs were going in and out of precincts. In remote areas, poll watchers have practically taken over the voting process: directing lines, telling people what to do, accompanying and coaching voters.
The Comelec’s obvious lack of preparations and the general chaos and confusion have led to the disenfranchisement of a significant number of voters. The other findings of the foreign observers mission include:
3. There was lack of secrecy in the voting process
Secrecy folders were too short and too few. In Bicol, only five secrecy folders were provided per clustered precinct so the teachers had to further cut the folders to make more.
Poll watchers were seen accompanying and coaching voters. There was even a case in Mindanao where the foreign observers saw a poll watcher filling out the ballot for a voter.
There were a lot of people watching, taking pictures, or videotaping voters from the windows of polling precincts. In one case, there were ballots changing hands through the window (“window voting”). In another case, there were people outside the voting room dictating names to voters on who to vote for
4. There were clear violations of laws on campaigning
Everywhere, there were campaign paraphernalia just outside and within schools being used as polling places.
Even children were used for campaigning and distributing materials.
– Poll watchers were observed wearing campaign t-shirts and bringing campaign paraphernalia inside voting precincts.
5. The practice of vote buying was prevalent.
One foreign observers’ team saw people lining up in politicians’ houses the night before the elections. In Tarlac, a voter reported that candidates and their supporters went house-to-house the night before the elections and distributed money. The week before, the people reported, P250 were distributed to people attending a voters’ education seminar sponsored by a candidate.
There were people distributing campaign materials with money clipped in it. In Mindanao, kilos of rice or money ranging from P300 to P400 were distributed to buy votes.
– In Surigao, a voter revealed that there had not been one candidate who did not offer him money.
Some were paid not to vote. A 75 year old voter said he was threatened and paid so as not to vote. In another case, a landlord threatened to kick out a farmer from his land if he did not vote for the former’s candidate.
– In Lanao del Sur, foreign observers saw and were able to talk with young boys who said they were paid to vote.
In all the areas visited by the foreign observers, they saw posters and heard reports about the military telling the people not to vote for Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and the progressive party-list groups namely, Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis, Kabataan, ACT Teachers, Katribu, and Akap Bata.
Heavy military and police presence in communities, and within polling places did not provide a sense of security for the people, rather it contributed to or has caused a climate of fear. Military men even harassed members of the People’s International Observers’ Mission. When asked about their role, soldiers said they were there to protect the people against the NPA.
These have put into question the voting process even at the precinct level. There are also reports from various sources questioning the tabulation and canvassing of results. Sen. Jamby Madrigal, JC de los Reyes, Nicanor Perlas, and Bro. Eddie Villanueva are reportedly gathering evidence of election fraud committed under the automation system.
With the guns, goons, and gold, and the recent addition of glitches pervading in Philippine elections, the low credibility of the Commission on Elections, and the elite-dominated, money-operated character of Philippine politics, it would take more than three or even a hundred elections in order to achieve a clean, honest, and democratic elections. Only the collective will and action of the Filipino people in fighting for change that would radically transform Philippine politics and elections, and not relying on empty promises by politicians, could clean the election system in the country. (Bulatlat.com)