By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — With only five days to go before elections, various groups convened today, May 8, at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran to stand strong together against election fraud and political repression that, they said, will happen with “certainty.”
“On election day, we can expect even more-than-usual rampant vote-buying while communities supportive of the Opposition and Independents will be prevented from voting,” the groups said in a unity statement.
Among those present during the forum were representatives from St. Scholastica’s College-Manila, Sta. Isabel College, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital Employees Association, Babae Network, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
The unity statement said it is “imperative that people unite to denounce in the strongest terms election fraud, political repression, and massive disinformation.”
The groups said that political repression and persecution continue against critics of the present administration.
Citing recent pronouncements of ranking military officials warning against campaigning for the progressive Makabayan Coalition, the groups said this is a “clear violation of the prohibition against electioneering and partisan political activity.”
Such threats have translated to human rights violations.
Last month, two members of urban poor group Kadamay who were posting tarpaulins of partylist Bayan Muna were forcibly disappeared and later surfaced facing charges.
Meanwhile, those who are critical of the present administration’s policies such as human rights lawyers, teachers, church people, and even members of the media were also subjected to various threats and vilification campaign — with some being accused of plotting an oust-Duterte plan.
Fraud and disinformation
Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao pointed out that the uneven field that senatorial aspirants have to contend with even before the start of the campaign is in itself a big challenge for those who wish to seek an independent senate this midterm elections.
“We have seen how the massive resources of government are being put to use to campaign for administration candidates. Government activities and functions are wantonly used as campaign platforms by the ruling party,” the unity statement read.
A nurse for a government hospital expressed dismay during the open forum that the president openly endorses and campaigns for senatorial aspirants while lowly workers are prohibited.
Lawyer Alex Lacson of the People’s Choice Movement said in a separate forum last week that former presidential aide Christopher Go has already spent P422 million for the campaign.
“We must be prepared for the inherent rottenness of the elections,” Arao said during the forum.
During the open forum, Bayan’s Renato Reyes Jr. said that “people reject thieves and murderers. So they need fraud to secure a seat,” adding that even if they are proclaimed winners, “the people will reject them” just like former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Blogger Noemi Dado, on the other hand, noted how disinformation is so rampant online nowadays, citing a recent Twitter study that reveals how lies travel far much faster than truth.
Dado said there are also Facebook pages that are either being hijacked by die-hard Duterte supporters or page administrators being booted out.
What is at stake?
Benedictine nun Sr. Mary John Mananzan said that a lot is at stake this midterms elections.
During the open forum, Sr. Mananzan stressed that she still believes in people power should the government’s check and balance system becomes co-opted.
She encouraged people not to sport a “defeatist” attitude if the senatorial aspirants they wish to support are not making it to the top 12, per recent surveys.
Mananzan said that no less than quantum physics show that reality is a realm of possibility and that people must “put together all their energy” for that reality to happen.
“That is not religion. That is science,” she jested.
Meanwhile, she announced that the Benedictine community will be on prayer and fasting on election day as only these can drive away certain “spirits.”
She said, “we must be prepared.”
How to help monitor?
Mac Yanto of Computer Professionals Union said volunteers could help monitor the election proceedings by reporting incidents to election watchdogs such as Kontra Daya.
These incidents may include vote-buying, harassment, illegal campaigning, malfunctioning vote counting machine, and Voters’ Registration Verification Machine (VRVM) Procedure Complaint.
Reports must include: time of incident, location, a detailed report, and photo (if to be sent online). Their hotline number is 0918-4058441
Netizens are also called on to use hashtags #KontraDaya and #VoteReportPH.
Meanwhile, Edz dela Cruz of Babae Network encouraged everyone to observe the Final Testing and Sealing as this is open to public. This, she said, may give one an idea on what to expect come May 13.
This coming weekend, Arao said, will be crucial to further conscientize the voters.
Note: Danilo Arao is also the associate editor of Bulatlat