Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

TEAM REPORT: Southern Tagalog

The People’s International Observers’ Mission conducted in Cavite and Quezon province consisted of a team of three to five international observers/team, a team leader, a documentation team, a media team (Southern Tagalog Exposure), and security.  The participants for Quezon Province consisted of Yoko Liriano-USA, Rev. Kathryn Schreiber-USA, Priscillia Lefebvre-Canada, as well as Pastors Eric Milambiling and Joram Calimutan-Philippines. The participants for Cavite were Johnna Mortenson-Denmark, Robert McCauley-USA, Margot Hoyte-Australia, Father Arturo Balagat-USA, and Naida Castro-USA.

FINDINGS

QUEZON

The Quezon team was able to participate in the testing of PCOS machines at Gulang Gulang Elementary School on the day before the elections.  On Election Day, the Quezon team observed the voting process in Lucban, Southern Luzon State University, Sua Elementary School in Mauban, Tayabas, and Quezon National High School.   The day after the elections, the team observed the canvassing at the municipal level in Pagbilao and Tayabas, as well as at the provincial level in Lucena City.  The PPCRV, or Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting was also met with the team to compare observations.

CAVITE

The Cavite team visited the following schools – Mambong Elementary, Molino 3 Elementary, Molino 1 Elementary, San Nicolas Elementary, Maliksi Elementary, Bacoor Central Elementary.  Election Day the team visited the Provincial Capital, Trese  Martires, to meet with the COMELEC  Supervisor; and revisited the Provincial Capital Council Chambers on May 11th.

Automated System

Testing:  In most areas of Quezon testing took place on May 9 the day before the elections.  At Gulang Gulang Elementary School testing began after 1pm.  Last minute testing day lacked fluency.  We observed teachers were not well-trained in PCOS assembly, nor were the BEI in troubleshooting.  Activities support was inadequate.  Inconsistent procedures included securing CF cards with different colour tabs.  Malfunctions included thermal paper not loading or running out and automatic shutdown of the PCOS machines for no apparent reason.  Security concerns included the location of PCOS machines the night before elections.

Technical Failures During Voting: We witnessed many rejected ballots with no obvious or consistent consensus on what happens once a vote was rejected.  Some failed ballots were placed on the side of the PCOS machine, in the open.  Some BEIs issued new ballots. We observed a rejected ballot being filled or shaded for the voter by a teacher.  (see  Ayuti Failed Ballot Incident below)

We also observed failures of PCOS machines.  IT persons were extremely unprepared to respond.  Calls and texts were made with COMELEC or Smartmatic for instructions.  At least one precinct’s backup battery failed 3 times.  Seals on the CF cards in some precincts were missing.  Taking fingerprints at registration caused voters to have an ink-smeared thumb that might create extra markings on their ballots before they were submitted for scanning.  Also of note, one brown- out occurred.  (see Mauban Technical Failure Incident below)

Voting Process

Getting to Polls: Sometimes there were checkpoints.  Some voters had to travel to new location due to consolidation of precincts.

Registration: Only at one school did we find a map, clearly posted, which included instructions on obtaining a voter order number.  Often, there was confusion over finding precinct and obtaining voter order numbers.  Many voters were unaware they should get voter numbers.  We noticed different distribution practices in different precincts.  Much time was spent finding names on precinct lists, as lists were numerical by voter number, or alphabetical but separated by precinct and many voters could not identify their precinct.  We noticed the PPCRV provided information tables at many of schools.

Length of Time to Vote:  Frequently, we found long lines.  At one site, people were in a line only to discover the line was not actually leading anywhere.  It was not uncommon to find people standing in line for over three hours.  At some schools, huge crowds were hot, sweaty and unhappy with the process stating a preference for manual voting which was easier and faster.  In others, despite waiting several hours, progress went well.  Most sites were overcrowded during part, if not all, of the day.

Confidentially:  Secrecy folders were not found in all precincts, and not used in many where they did exist – sometimes used as a cushion for writing upon, not for voting confidentiality.  Some locations did use them to guard voter privacy.  However, those who attempted to use the folders noticed the inadequacy of the folders due to their size in comparison to the ballot or either had to leave them on the desk or their folders were taken from them when joining the line to insert their ballot into the PCOS machine, at which time the congestion due to registration morphed with the voting line and destroyed any chance at voting privacy. In some schools windows were open for all onlookers outside to peer inside.

Canvassing: Election Day, May 10, as of 8:00pm no election returns had been submitted to the provincial capital of Cavite.  By May 12th one Barangay had yet to transmit or deliver returns.  At the Provincial Capital in Quezon on May 11that 3:44pm 16 out of 41 Barangays had not yet transmitted or delivered election data.

Violence and Harassment

Armed Forces: We noticed police and military presence on Election Day and the day after.  At Southern Luzon State University, at a checkpoint across from the school, we observed armed elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).  At the gate where there was one armed PNP a voter has to pass before entering the school, and a tent of several armed and unarmed PNP personnel inside the school.  Frequently, Barangay police were also seen inside the school.

Vote-Buying:  We received verbal reports of vote buying by the Revilla campaign personnel (Revilla is a senatorial candidate and gathered the most number of votes nationwide).  Later reports stated that 2 – 5 Abaya campaigners were reported arrested in the morning of May 10 for vote buying at this school.

After lunch, we attempted to visit Talaba 4, however a nearby shooting incident made it impossible to access (see: Talaba Shooting Incident below)

Inappropriate Campaigning/Poll Watcher Activities: We noticed campaign materials in a number of classrooms and polling sites.  Most were “sample ballots” that had candidates of a specific party listed, but others were more direct.  Many persons wearing the same colored shirt (a party colour) with the word “watchman” or “security” on their backs were seen by the team to be a form of campaign material or an intimidation tactic.  At one school, vehicles with candidate’s paraphernalia drove through the grounds and distributed food for the poll watchers.

Many party observers were observed behaving inappropriately.  Some party list poll watchers were seen walking in between desks as if to assist in the process.  Some stood too close to the PCOS machine as voters inserted their ballot.  Poll watchers often assist voters in how to insert ballots, and sometimes did so themselves. At Quezon National High School, party list poll watchers took command of the entrance, deciding who got in and out of the precinct.  Barangay officers responded to the commotion that broke out due to this poll watcher’s activity.  Another party observer was found handing out voter order numbers.  There seemed to be an inconsistency between the verbal and written guidelines of the COMELEC regarding where a party list poll watchers can observe—in their own precinct or another precinct.  We were also concerned that the poor use of secrecy folders, combined with the close proximity of party poll watchers, intimidated voters.

Harassment of People’s IOM Team: At Bacoor Central Elementary poll watcher Nasher F. Ambrocio was observed taking pictures of the People’s IOM group.  Upon being approached, he said he needed photos for his report.  He had 3 different IDs, one for Presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro.  At Quezon National High School the previously mentioned poll watcher harassed our media team.  At Tayabas, there was one AFP personnel, Almencion, and one PNP personnel, Pagtilan, who were in the canvassing room.  After speaking with one of the observers, Almencion began texting.  After a while, a PNP personnel, Ursolino, stood behind two of the international observers to view what they were writing in their notebooks.   A man who identified himself as Guilo, part of the mayoral office, asked the international observers to record their names and addresses in a registry of guests for the upcoming festival.

HIGHLIGHTED CASES

Ayuti Failed Ballot Incident:

In the precinct for Barangay Ayuti in Lucban, one of the voters’ ballot was rejected once, after which the BEI took the ballot, examined it closely, took the marker and shaded some of the circles for the voter.  Then, the BEI proceeded to process the ballot through the PCOS machine but it was rejected three more times and put to the side.  During an interview with this specific voter, he said that the reason his ballot was rejected might have been the fact that he had forgotten his glasses at home and could not read what was written.  The BEI said there were extra markings—this led to the disenfranchisement of this voter.

Mauban Technical Failure Incident

At Mauban, a PCOS machine stopped functioning.  It took an hour and a half to resolve the procedure.  BEI and IT were on standby for some time awaiting  further instructions from Smartmatic, as COMELEC had referred them to Smartmatic.  During this time, voters became restless, freely left their seats and ballots.   Voters talked among themselves, some compared ballots.  Finally, BEI and poll watchers decided to have voters fill out their ballots and to leave it up to BEIs, with the supervision of the poll watchers (most of whom were from the same group), later inserting ballots into a functional PCOS machine.

Talaba Shooting Incident

On the way to Talaba 4 School, while attempting to turn left onto the main road (Aguinaldo Highway), the Cavite team noticed a large number of people running in the team’s direction.  Asking those who were apparently running away, we were advised that a shooting incident had just occurred at the PNP Station.  Consequently, we turned right on the highway, away from the scene.   We began interviewing witnesses, as they streamed past our vehicle.  Confusing and conflicting stories ensued.  It appeared that the military, PNP and some civilians, perhaps from a private army, may have been involved.  We drove further up the street to pull off the Highway.  We received a phone report from the scene that there 2 persons were killed during the incident.

The PIOM team interviewed Acting Chief of Police, Colonel Abrenica, who said that the previous Chief had been suspended the night before.  We received a verbal and written report (PNP Press Release, transmitted 10:51am 11 May, attached).  It appears an armed dispute between the PNP and Jun Abaya (a candidate for a local position) and employees of the Abaya campaign engaged in a gunfight.  2 Abaya supporters were killed, 1 wounded, 1 PNP officer wounded, 2 Abaya supporters detained and Former Congressman Plaridel Abaya detained by the PNP.

RECOMMENDATIONS

There needs to be more PCOS machines available for each precinct both as a way to relieve backlogging of voters and in terms of a spare machine in case of a malfunction. We recommend that the number of PCOS machines are at least doubled. There is currently a maximum of 1000 voters per PCOS machine, thus we recommend 500 voters.  Improve machine quality, increase the number of available technicians, enable a voter confirmation screen.

There needs to be consistent voting procedures in each precinct (written instructions for voter number, precinct location, voter order ticketing). The registration directory would be more efficient if the clustered precincts were listed in one consolidated alphabetical list. We recommend that the registration process take place in a separate room to allow more flow and privacy in the voting room.

Improve accuracy of voter lists and establish a procedure for the elderly and disabled that does not cause other voters extended waiting times.

We recommend more substantial and additional training be provided for the BEIs, the Smartmatic technicians, the partylist poll watchers, the COMELEC officials and the voters themselves. In terms of the partylist poll watchers, the boundaries and responsibilities of their job should be made clear and more immediate reprimand for infractions.

All voters should have access to instructions on how to fill out ballots, how the PCOS machines work in terms of reading ballots as well as what happens when a ballot is rejected. Rules regarding the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in the voting room need to be clearly indicated and enforced.

Enforce laws regarding campaign materials, campaigners and presence of PNP/AFP and Baranguay police within voting areas.

Mock elections and the testing of the PCOS machines need to be conducted in advance and more than once, such as 3 months, one month, a week and the day before elections. An independent body (not government appointed) should be responsible for conducting and resolving (or at least recommending resolutions to) recorded failures with special attention to the rejection of ballots.

When a PCOS machine malfunctions and voting becomes a problem on the day of the elections, we recommend that the COMELEC, not Smartmatic, be responsible with procedural decisions. Additionally, the COMELEC needs to conduct its duties in a clear and transparent manner following prewritten and agreed upon guidelines.

COMELEC should conduct a review and implement recommendations well before the next election. COMELEC guidelines should be rewritten based on new findings in this first automated election in order to reflect problems that seem to have been widespread.  There also needs to be more transparency in the sense that voters should be allowed to verify that the vote was read correctly – for example, the vote could be shown on the PCOS machine screen, an option that was disabled by the COMELEC. We recommend that this feature is reinstalled.

We recommend that measures be put into place to ensure voter confidentiality. Simple measures such as cubicles could be used as well as a shield that would hide the ballot as it is being fed into the PCOS machine.

Ensure transparency of data transfer.

Employ sufficient number of personnel to conduct elections.  It should not be the job of teachers to administer elections.  Every election has reports of violence against teachers, who are actually education professionals – not electoral officers.

All voters should have adequate access to voting stations, especially those in remote areas in order to ensure voter security as well as proper representation. In areas where the use of PCOS machines are especially problematic, reverting to manual voting should be enacted.

Each precinct’s election returns should be broadcasted online as they develop to increase transparency and allow the public to make sure that there is no vote padding/vote shaving  (dagdag bawas) during canvassing or counting of votes.

Vote buying and possible selective enforcement of the law may have contributed to the ensuing gun fight that left 2 people dead.  Further possible factors contributing to this incident should be investigated.

Conclusions

Was this an election free of violence?  Media reports have been cited as reporting that an ‘International observer mission said the elections in Cavite were violence free.’  We were there and we say clearly: “two dead men does not equal a violence-free election.”  Further, that by international standards, any death, injury or other violence, means that the election is not violence free.

Did the automated system fulfill the objectives that it was supposed to fulfill? That is, to introduce an election process that was fast, clean, efficient and free of corruption, intimidation, violence and other forms of election fraud.  The question can only be answered by considering all aspects of the electoral process.  That is, we must look not only at the automated system, but also the presence of vote buying, intimidation and other irregularities in the voting process. Our conclusion is that since intimidation, vote buying and other activities of corruption continue to be documented, the use of an electronic ballot system can solve only part of the problem.#

Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

AREA PROFILE South Luzon: Cavite

General demography

  • Land Area   : 1,427.06 km2
  • Capital    :  Imus (P.D.1163)
  • Income Class   :  First Class
  • Congressional Districts  : 7
  • Cities    : 4
  • Municipalities   : 19
  • No. of Barangays  : 829 (Proc. No. 28)
  • Seat of Provincial Government  :Trece Martires City
  • Provincial Governor  :Hon. Erineo “Ayong” S. Maliksi

Quick Facts

  • Human Resources (Proj)   : 2,987,891
  • 2008 Population
    • Voting Population (2010) :  1,634,101
    Population Density  :  2,094 persons/km2
    • No. of Households  : 617,843
  • Growth Rate   : 4.59%
  • Total Labor Force  :  1,131,215
    • Industrial sites   : 45
    Employment Rate  : 84.40%
    • Employed Labor Force  : 954,745
  • Literacy Rate   : 96.52%
  • No. of Private Hospitals  :  40      No. of Government Hospitals : 12
  • Vital Health Indices
    • Infant Mortality Rate  : 5.43%
    Maternal Mortality Rate  : 22.19%
    • Crude Death Rate   : 3.16%
    Crude Birth Rate  : 20.41%

Agricultural Products, Geography and Climate

  • Coconut, Coffee, Cocoa, Sugar Cane, Banana
  • 47 kilometers from the heart of Metro Manila, lies along the southern shore of Manila Bay. It is bounded on the north by Manila Bay and Metro Manila, on the east by Laguna, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by Batangas.
  • The physiography of this province is diverse. It is a combination of lowland, coastline, and upland areas. It has two pronounced seasons: dry from November to April and wet from May to October.
  • From March to July, warm temperature of 28.8 degrees centigrade is experienced and during January, February and December, the temperature is cool at 25.8 degrees centigrade.

Economic and Political Situation

  • Contrary to the number of business and economic growth the province remains divided with the rich few and vast poor majority that live on slums along industrial and business center including coastal areas. While the rural areas maintains the backward agricultural development existing between farmers and landlords
  • The political seat of power is controlled by succession of dynasties (Montano, Remulla, Revilla and Maliksi)  that stretches down to the municipal level.
  • Election hotspots are the towns of Bacoor, Imus and Tanza Bacoor, Cavite:
  • Bacoor, Cavite is the 2nd Congressional District of the province and is home to more than 600,000 inhabitants mostly migrants from provinces. The voting population is 275,511 (the 2nd largest in Cavite).
  • The major political position is a congressional seat and a town mayor being disputed by 3 clans (Abaya, Revilla and Castillo)
  • The town was put under COMELEC Control on May 3, 2010 due to the recent election related violence (strafing, abduction and murder).

One burning issue is the building of infrastructure projects (road and reclamation projects along the former coast line of Binakayan , Kawit  and once community of  more than 200 families of fisherfolks and dock of more than 90 fishing boats.

The 7 km R1 expressway is part of the 27.2km Cavite-Laguna North-South highway that is funded by the World Bank (WB) worth USD 180 million

This project is not just about the R1 issue but also the reclamation area to add prime lots that would be sold to big businesses, developers and foreign investors. This is the result of the planned 68 hectare export processing zone in the reclaimed area of Bacoor Bay thru the funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Effects of the project : Dislocation of the livelihood of 12,402 fisherfolks along the coastal area of Bacoor Bay and Canacao Bay.

Another 3,770 fisherfolks from the towns of Maragondon, Naic and Ternate  are concerned about the rapid coastal conversion because of the Hamilo Cove project of SM Development Corp. and the 8 km Nasugbu-  Ternate Road.

Food security will worsen due to the conversion of another 9,186 hectares of agricultural land from the towns of Naic and Tanza brought by the project. #

Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

AREA PROFILE South Luzon: Quezon

Quezon province is part of the Southern Tagalog Region. It stretches like a narrow belt along the eastern coast of Luzon from Desada Point in the north to Bicol in the south. It borders the provinces of Aurora to the north, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur to the east, and Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Batangas to the west.

BRIEF PROFILE
Capital: Lucena City
Land Area: 11 946,3 sq km
Population: 1 500 000
Cities: Lucena
Number of Towns: 40

The Sierra Madre mountain range runs the entire length of the northern part of the province; its eastern slopes form a bold and almost inaccessible shoreline.

The highest peak, Mt Banahaw, rises to 2177 meters. The range precipitously dips at the Tayabas Isthmus. Here and in the Bondoc Peninsula, plains dominate the coastal areas while low-wooded hills form the interior. The province includes the Polilio group of islands and Alabat Island.

The province has no pronounced dry season; rainy months are from October to January.

Quezon’s economy is agriculture based, its major crops is coconut, rice, corn and roots crops.

Quezon province is the most militarized  area in the Southern Tagalog region, since 2001 up to present  the number of killings rose to 48, most of them farmers. The 74th , 76th, 1st, infantry battalion are operating in the province. The Philippine Airforce, provincial police mobile group are also here in province.

The year 2006 marked the end of Oplan Bantay Laya 1, but that year also saw the intensified military deployment and harsher military operations against residents of Quezon Province. It must be remembered that in 2006-2007, intensified militarization in Quezon caused the evacuation of families in their communities. More than 20 families of peasants and indigenous people were forced to evacuate to Metro Manila. The phenomena of internal refugees at that time forced various groups led by Tanggol Karapatan to hold a campaign for internal refugees, seeking the help of the religious, progressive people’s organizations, local government units, individuals, schools and private groups to provide shelter, food, medicine, clothing and other needs. It also sought help for these displaced people to lead normal lives by relocating them to other provinces where they can find their places in the society once more.

In the first quarter of 2009, civil military operations in Lucena City occurred where the barangays of Barra, Talao-talao, Cotta and Dalahican were affected. The Task Force Lucena conducted  house to house visits and interviews of residents to find out if they belonged to progressive people’s organizations and threatened them that if they continued their affiliation with such groups anything can happen to them. During the third quarter of 2009 and up to the present quarter, urban poor areas from Atimonan, Gumaca, Lopez and Plaridel encountered massive civil military operations.

Last October 15, 2009, clashes between the government armed forces and the left-winged armed group occurred at the tri boundaries of Barangay San Vicente, Magsaysay and Villarica of South Quezon. After the said incident, intensified military operation were done by the joint elements of 74th and 76th IBPA. This operation caused a continuous series of human rights violation among the residents of different barangays in the area.

Last October 13, 2008 a case of extra judicial killing and unlawful search and seizure was reported, committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Mulanay, Quezon. A 30 year old farmer, Alejo De Luna, was killed by the elements of Bravo Squad of the 74th IB lead by 1st Lt. Bibat in Sitio Pasalilo, Brgy Mabini, Mulanay, Quezon at around six o’clock in the morning, while Alejo was busy with his usual day in the field. Another case of extra judicial killing occurred at barangay Villa Veronica Buenavista Quezon last August 3, 2009.

There are also reports that the military also go to the areas where there are members of  progressive organizations and partylist groups to tell the people not to join or vote in the coming election for the progressive partylist groups.

In  District 1 of the province, former Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera is running for congreswoman, Devanadera is a known ally of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The people in the district says Devandera give them money to vote her this election.

Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

TEAM REPORT: Surigao

New Machines, Same Old Political Machinery

Nine of us chose to travel to Surigao del Norte where we divided into three smaller teams: one to Dapa, one to Ma-Init, and one to Tubod.  We arrived on the 9th and began our observations that night.  We want to express our gratefulness to the community members who opened their doors and answered our endless questions.  We also thank the Filipino people for sharing with us their stories, we interviewed hundreds of voters who opened up and shared their very personal details with us.

The Dapa team expected to ride a banca (small boat) they had reserved for 3 pm to the island of Siargao.  They were surprised to find that COMELEC requisitioned their banca to bring PCOS machines to Dapa.  It was a perfect example of how rushed and unprepared the elections were.  The voting machines arrived just 15 hours before the opening of the precincts.  The team redirected their observations to Surigao City.

The two other teams were assigned to Tubod and Ma-Init.  At clustered precincts, the observers conducted ethnographic interviews with voters from different generations, social classes and backgrounds and with various people involved in the electoral process.  They visited a total of 17 different cluster precincts, and documented every observation with photos and videos.

Based on our observations, we declare that the May 2010 election process was not credible due to fear, harassment, technical shortcomings, vote buying, a lack of secrecy at the polls and psychological violence. While the Automated Election System appeared to be a good start, the continued existence of an elitist political order based on wealth, influence and brute force has prevented the true voice of the people from being heard.

In all the COMELEC reports of peaceful elections, “peace” only referred to a lack of widespread, overt physical violence.  But this was not a peaceful election. We observed:

  1. Vote Buying and Voter Disenfranchisement
    1. We heard a case of a voter being threatened by the landowner with eviction from the land unless they voted in a certain way.  The voter ended up moving rather than vote in the way the landowner demanded.
    2. We obtained an affidavit from a man who admitted that, under duress, his finger was marked with indelible ink and he was paid not to vote.  He was visibly shaken and he looked broken as he told us his story.  When we asked how he felt, he began to cry and said he felt that a “nabaliw” (curse) had been cast on him and his family.
    3. We documented more than 44 cases of vote buying (Tili-tili).
      1. We obtained a variety of different sample ballots, some printed with ovals filled out, and some filled out by hand, and some with windows cut out next to the candidates’ names.  They were given to voters along with money.
      2. “There is not one candidate that has not offered me money”.
  1. Lack of Privacy and Secrecy in Voting
    1. There were open windows at every precinct with people videotaping and taking pictures from windows
    2. Unauthorized personnel, including political operatives,  in precincts
    3. Small rooms used for voting
    4. Ordinary folders were used in place of official COMELEC secrecy folder
  1. Intimidation of Voters
    1. Intimidation by elected Barangay Officers (Capitan, Counselor, Secretary)
    2. Barangay Police who were present in the polling centers
    3. Operatives for political parties in the compound and in precincts.  In some instances political operatives wearing t-shirts with “Roma” written on it were the ones who were controlling who entered and who exited the room
  1. Campaigning Inside the Polling Compound
    1. Exploitation of children who were made to hand out campaign materials within the voting area in direct violation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and against the campaign laws of the Philippines
    2. Campaigning paraphernalia (T-shirts, flyers, posters, personal billboards, stickers) inside the polling compounds
  1. Precinct Organization
    1. COMELEC and PNP officers were in some areas very disrespectful to people in line
    2. Distribution of priority numbers was not clear, effective, fair or consistent
    3. Layout of the election site did not facilitate a smooth and efficient flow for waiting voters
    4. Voting hours insufficient for the number of registered voters per precinct
    5. COMELEC officials, Smartmatic technicians and party poll watchers did not have visible identification
    6. The announcement that voting hours would be extended was not always communicated to the BEIs
  1. Technical Problems
    1. Machines rejected more than 80% of the ballots in Mat-I elementary school
    2. While the voting was not very secret, the canvassing was
      1. Because the feature on the machines that would validate and review the ballots was disabled, “Congratulations” did not necessarily mean a valid vote, or that the votes were counted properly
      2. The digital signature to validate the transmission to the canvassing center was disabled
    3. The manual random audit should be performed before the final results are finalized

We honor the spirit of the Filipino voters who waited standing in long lines: under the heavy rain, the sun, with no breakfast neither lunch, to cast their ballots in spite of the oppression and all the irregularities.  COMELEC betrayed the public trust by being indifferent to predicted problems even though they had the power, time and tools to prevent them. The political dynasties that constitute most of the candidates and control the parties ensured that the elections would follow the same formula of name recognition and vote buying.

Pervasive oppression and corruption built within the election system is still present despite the Automated Election System. Vote buying, privacy concerns, technical difficulties and precinct organization contributed to the violation of voter rights and the disenfranchisement of their free will.   Even without any evidence of physical violence or intimidation, there was a physiological fear embedded in the community.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Conduct an independent and transparent electoral audit to validate the results of the May 2010 elections.
  • Cease proclamations of election results until the random manual audit has been fully conducted.
  • Guarantee secrecy for voters.
  • Address, systematically and comprehensively, voter education and the training of all personnel involved in elections.
  • Address urgently the failure of safeguards put in place by COMELEC to ensure the safety of voters.
  • Investigate vote buying and disenfranchisement of voters by political parties.
  • Create an independent body to evaluate any and all vulnerabilities in the election system.
  • Require COMELEC to work with local CSO’s to ensure transparency
Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

TEAM REPORT: Davao

    I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

On May 10, our nine-person delegation, which includes members from Canada, the United States, Hong Kong and the Philippines, observed elections in the province of Davao del Sur.  We were dismayed at the many examples of voter fraud, voter intimidation, and a variety of irregularities that prevented a free and fair election.

We witnessed blatant disregard for election day protocol on behalf of the military, poll workers and party poll watchers.  We were alarmed to witness group voting, poll watchers instructing people how to vote, and the overall chaotic and inconsistent nature of the whole process.  Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) appeared to be overwhelmed by the number of voters and insufficiently trained in the new voting technology.

Though people were clearly excited to exercise their democratic rights on election day, we witnessed how the system failed many of them. For example, despite the best efforts of the BEI, the sheer volume of eager and enthusiastic voters seemed to overtax them. The new voting machines also jammed, rejected ballots and malfunctioned a number times and the modem connection failed to transmit the ballot results at the end of the day.

We also witnessed that many of the problems that have historically plagued Philippine elections remained, despite the automation. For example, a large number of people reported that candidates engaged in vote buying, offering between 30 and 400 pesos and/or kilos of rice for a vote.

The military campaigned vigorously against party lists and senatorial candidates critical of the current Arroyo administration.  People reported that soldiers made community visits up until the eve of elections to distribute flyers urging people not to vote for such candidates. We also observed armed soldiers in the polling area.

As part of the People’s International Election Observer Mission with 85 participants from around the world, visiting nine regions in the country, we will be finalizing a report about what we witnessed in Davao del Sur and the Philippines. Upon returning to our home countries, we will publicize our findings in hopes that both the Filipino and international communities will use the information from our report to create more democratic processes in the future.

People International Observers’ Mission delegates in Davao include: Clarito Arrodonis (USA) Jerry Bolick (USA), Wendell Gumban (Philippines) Lindsey Kerr (USA), Bonnie Ruth Morton (Canada) Prof. Suresh Naidu (USA), Atty. Radhika Sainath (USA), Rogelio Soluta (Philippines) Kai Shing Wong (Hong Kong).

    • II. BACKGROUND ON SANTA CRUZ

The 14 municipalities and two cities of the Philippine province of Davao del Sur have a total of 1,465,601 registered voters.  The municipality of Santa Cruz has 52,186.  Nationally the Davao provinces are renowned for their ethnic diversity, historically consisting of indigenous populations legally classified as a whole as “Lumad tribes.”  Since the closing years of Spanish colonial rule in the late 19th century, however, predominantly Roman Catholic people of the major Visayan islands have steadily migrated southward along eastern Mindanao island and established socio-economic political dominance in the region.  The minority ethnic groups in the Davao del Sur area include B’laan, Mandaya, Manobo, Tagakaolo, Tausug and T’Boli, alongside  substantial Christian Visayan (Cebuano, Ilonggo and Waray) presence.

The major products in Davao del Sur are rice, corn, coconut, banana, sugarcane, coffee, cacao, durian, mango, lansones and fish. In Santa Cruz in particular, the major products are banana, coconut and seaweed, while the town’s major investors include the San Miguel Corporation, Coco Davao Inc., Franklin Baker Co. and GSL Food Industries.

Many of people in Santa Cruz are landless tenant sharecroppers.  Chapters of national farmer movements have been organizing people in the area for years.  There is a history of military repression of farmer organizing activity in this region.  The military traditionally links labor organizing activity in the region to left-wing guerilla movements, encumbering farm workers’ ability to organize and bargain collectively.

Election-related violence led the Republic of the Philippines Commission on Elections (COMELECC) to resume control over Davao del Sur’s provincial elections. On May 1, 2010 members of the Philippine 39th Infantry Battalion fired at the convoy of a local candidate after the convoy allegedly ignored a checkpoint in the town of Malita.  This resulted in three injuries.  In Malalag supporters of a local candidate recently shot dead two supporters of the rival candidate.

On Election Day 2010 delegates of the People’s International Observers’ Mission delegates visited polling precincts in two barangays of Santa Cruz:  Brgy. Coronon and Brgy. Zone I. There were five clustered precincts in Brgy. Coronon, with a total of 4,395 registered voters.  In Brgy. Zone I there were three clustered precincts, with a total of 4, 385 registered voters.

People from a variety of sectors interviewed by People’s IOM observers consider Santa Cruz an “electoral hotspot.” People living in the area are being harassed, killed, and displaced in the armed conflict between the National People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which is supported by paramilitaries known as CAFGU. Voters  interviewed by the mission speculated that the AFP is in Santa Cruz to protect  the major mining and geothermal projects in the area.

    • III.  SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

Military Presence / Perceptions of Intimidation

The military’s presence both leading up to elections and on election day impacted the freeness and fairness of the elections by creating a climate of fear and intimidation.

For example, numerous residents of Barenguey Zone 1 reported that the military and paramilitaries harassed and discouraged voters from voting for certain candidates and party lists by conducting house-to-visits, scattering handbills along the main road in the area and personally distributing handbills instructing people not to vote for certain party lists.

During house-to-house visits by the military, residents of Zone 1 reported that the military came to their homes and asked how many people in the family were voters.  Another individual reported that on the day before the election, members of a paramilitary group known as Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), distributed handbills urging people not to vote for certain party lists. These paramilitaries wore masks covering their entire face, but were otherwise dressed as civilians. Likewise, community members reported seeing soldiers in 2 6-wheeled military vehicles throwing flyers the eve of election day. The flyers said don’t vote for a certain set of party lists, and connected them to the CPP/NPA.

On May 11, 2010, the team interviewed the Santa Cruz Seven, a group of party-list activists and politicians that has been harassed by the military since an “encounter” between the NPA and the AFP in January 2010. False frustrated murder charges were subsequently filed by the military against these seven.

We interviewed two of these seven, who reported long-term intense military harassment of progressive community and organization leaders and their families.

A party list member reported that soldiers told him not to vote for his party-list.  He further reported that soldiers wearing civilian clothes and refusing to identify themselves later issued his wife a thinly veiled death threat by promising to return on her birthday and extinguish her birthday candles. These soldiers were later seen in military uniforms.

Zone 1 residents additionally said that a Katribu (party list of indigenous peoples) party member who reportedly aided a wounded soldier was later accused of attempted murder. These party activists believe that an armed encounter between the military (AFP) and communist guerrillas (NPA) in the region on April 30th was given as a pretext for repression of party list organizer. They said the military continued to harass the chairperson of a local farmers’ organization, asking for a master list of organization members.

Numerous residents of Zone 1 also reported that the military extensively campaigned against Lisa Maza, Satur Ocampo and other progressive candidates and party list members by claiming these candidates had ties to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA.  People’s IOM obtained a flyer distributed by the military which states, “Huwag iboto mga partylists ng NPA” (Do not vote for party lists of the NPA) and then listed 8 party lists including one disqualified two months before the elections.

People’s IOM observers also witnessed the presence of the military on election day in Barangay Zone 1. The incident took place at approximately, 10:30 a.m., when a small white truck filled with a number of soldiers was observed directly behind a building where polling was taking place.  Despite the prohibition of military presence within 50 meters of a polling station, soldiers armed with M-16 rifles were witnessed standing close to the school. When one observer attempted to approach a soldier, the soldier attempted to hide, and then left within five minutes.

Similarly, upon arrival at the precinct, PIOM observers immediately noticed the presence of one armed soldier on the voting grounds (who left upon seeing the observers), and there were two PNP (Philippine National Police) officers along the perimeter of the voting grounds the entire day.

Vote Buying

Vote buying has been historically pervasive and well-documented in the Philippines and involves the providing of a gift (such as cash or foodstuffs) in direct exchange for a requested vote.   The team received several first-hand reports of vote buying in both Coronon and Zone I.  When asked about vote buying one voter stated that, “Yes, vote-buying is happening right here in this election.”

Voters were often reluctant to talk about vote buying, often stating that it occurred in a neighboring area or that they had “heard about it.” These claims were often made with an air of tension and apprehension.  In separate instances, one bystander sidled up to a voter warning him about the consequences of relaying his personal experience with vote buying. “You will be killed,” said the bystander.  Another Coronen voter silently gestured to the PIOM observer that his throat would be cut if he were to affirm personal experience with the vote buying phenomenon.

One Zone I voter reported that representatives of a vice-mayoral candidate were giving out rice in exchange for votes.  Other Zone I voters reported that candidate representatives offered between 30 and 400 pesos (US $0.65 to $9.30), as well as rice, in exchange for a vote.

Voters in Coronon reported that representatives of candidates offered specific quantities of rice (one to three kilograms) in addition to money in exchange for votes. Such representatives approached our interviewees either on the street, or visited them at home by walking from house to house.  One voter received 100 pesos in an envelope with a sample ballot, indicating the specific vote desired.

In PIOM interviews conducted the day after the election, one emaciated woman with regional tribal ethnicity reported accepting two 3-kilogram packages of rice, each from the representatives of two separate candidates:  one for councilor and one for mayor. She confirmed that this influenced her vote.  She added that members of her barangay political organization followed up on her with a visit after she went to the polls to confirm that she indeed had voted in the desired fashion. In another post-election interview, a man initially acknowledged experience with vote buying, but denied this later in the interview.

Lastly, one candidate interviewed reported that she believed people were also being paid not to vote.

Anomalies in the Voters’ Lists

People’s IOM members also noted two broad categories: problems with the voter list such as the presence of dead people on the list, and the absence of names of people who believed they were eligible to vote.

One Coronon man reported that the names of his father and uncle, who had both died in the early 1990s, were on the list.  Similarly, one Coronon precinct election official acknowledged that the names of 12 dead people appeared on their voter list.

The team members also observed that many would-be voters could not find their names on the voter list in both polling locations. In Zone I, PIOM came across at least 35 cases of people who were not able to find themselves on the initial voters’ list (although there was a backup list available).   In Coronon, three women went to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) head, and reported that their names were not on the list. These individuals were told that nothing could be done.

One resident of Coronen was involved in an altercation with election officials after finding out that his entire family of three could not vote despite appropriately following poll procedures (obtaining their priority numbers, with the expectation of having their voting processed in the order received), as their respective priority numbers had already been used by other voters.

All these voter list issues were confirmed in post-election interviews conducted in Zone I.  Many Election Day interviewees ventured that such voter list problems might have been attributable to the 2010 approach of consolidating multiple precincts into new administrative “clusters.”

Problems with the Automated Electoral System

People’s IOM members witnessed a number of problems with the Automated Electoral System (AES) machines or PCOS, which resulted in voting delays, uncounted ballots, and compromises with the security of the ballot. Such problems included delays in initialization, machine breakdowns, ballot rejections, insufficient technical support, paper jams, failure in transmission, memory card failure, and inadequate training of staff.

In Zone I, one PCOS machine broke down for 45 minutes. The PCOS also rejected nearly 3% of ballots.  BEI staff on site dealt with these invalid ballots inconsistently; ranging from placing rejected ballots in a plastic bag to strewing them about the polling site.

In one Zone 1 precinct station, election officials’ unfamiliarity with technical issues delayed the opening of the polls for approximately 45 minutes.  In Coronon, two machines broke down, with one breaking down twice in one precinct, causing lengthy delays. BEI staff also appeared severely undertrained: some forgot to enter PINs into the machine, whereas others read the wrong instructions (which, incidentally, were all in English), when attempting to troubleshoot.

Ballots often took up to 20 minutes to fill out, and many voters, particularly farmers, complained that they had trouble filling out the bubbles because of the small sizes.  These voters were particularly concerned that their votes might not be counted because their shaky hands from years of manual labor made it difficult to stay within the lines.

While all precinct stations were supposed to be equipped with ultraviolet lamps to check the validity of the ballots, no PIOM observer reported seeing one being employed for this purpose.

The Sta. Cruz municipal canvassing board chairman Cacsasa R. Casar told PIOM that all of the modems in Zone 1 failed to transmit at the close of election day.   In Coronen, PIOM team members observed two out of five AES machines failed to electronically transmit. According to the Chairman, 26 out of 62 modems in Santa Cruz failed to transmit.  These memory cards had to be physically transported to the municipal canvassing board, compromising the security of the electoral returns.

Polling Place Irregularities

The PIOM team found a large number of irregularities and disturbing practices with respect to precinct area logistics and ballot security.

In Coronon, BEI did not permit PIOM observers to be present in the voting rooms, relegating them to observe from windows and doorways once the polls opened at 7:00 AM. However, in Zone 1, PIOM watchers were allowed inside the voting area itself.   Thus in Coronen, official partisan poll watchers (i.e., observers of major formal political parties in the Philippines), unlike PIOM observers, were allowed inside the rooms where the voting took place.

Nonetheless, PIOM team members in both Coronen and Zone 1 observed that partisan poll watchers routinely performed tasks that should have been conducted by BEI staff, such as helping voters fill out their ballots and distributing voters’ priority numbers.

In addition, these partisan watchers would help voters get to the front of the line, often pushing them forward in front of other voters, and then watched how “their people” voted.  Partisan watchers were routinely shouting out the names of voters’ chosen candidates aloud and in some instances actually filled out voters’ ballots, and loaded these ballots into the AES machines.

In Coronon, a PIOM team member observed BEI staff putting two ballots into a single folder before handing them to the voter. After voting was finished, staff would insert both simultaneously into the AES machine. The same PIOM team member in Coronon also observed that the worker designated to mark the fingers of the voters (with ink to verify their having voted) was not consistently performing his task and was often not even present.

PIOM also observed a number of other irregularities. In Coronon, one PIOM team member observed an instance of ballots being put through a machine even after the memory card had been taken out, so that the ballot would not be electronically registered. Another PIOM member observed that pregnant women had difficulties voting in Zone 1, due to the long lines, overcrowding and often pushing evident at the polling station.

Our post-election interviewees noted unfairness in the distribution/handling of priority numbers, resulting in some voters not being processed in the order in which they physically arrived at the precinct. One voter complained of having her priority number buried below others, and then being subjected to further delays when she complained.  Another one said she just memorized a sample ballot provided by a party leader without knowing who any of the candidates were.

By far the most common complaint was the long waiting time, from two to five hours in some cases. Long and unclear lines, overcrowding, and insufficient staff resulted in an absence of ballot privacy and even occasional fights and scuffles. PIOM observers also observed that all instructions were in English and Tagalog, but not in the local Visayan or local indigenous dialects/languages.   In addition, PIOM found that illiterate voters were not treated in a consistent fashion by BEI staff, in that some were helped by party poll watchers, why others were helped by BEI workers.

While some interviewees reported no problem at all with their election experience, others verified the precinct issues noted in this section, suggesting that some of these issues were attributable to the reported quintupling of the ratio of voters to poll workers from the last election period. PIOM observers were also concerned that the behavior of these official partisan poll watchers creates a large potential for fraud.

    • IV. CONCLUSION

The PIOM observer team found a variety of problematic issues at Santa Cruz voter polling stations in Zone I and Coronon on Election Day 2010, including voter intimidation (before and during Election Day, either at the hands of the police or military), vote buying, defective voter lists, complications due to crowding, and the potentially fraudulent behavior of official poll watchers.

With the exception of technical, personnel or systematic issues related to the newly-introduced AES in the 2010 Philippine elections, indeed, such issues have already been noted and responded to in the People’s IOM’s report regarding the Philippines’ 2007 elections. The political and economic conditions we observed, such as political dynasties, inequality in land ownership, military intimidation and vote-buying make electoral reforms alone merely cosmetic. The combination of inequality and politically-motivated counterinsurgency in the area compromises electoral and human rights. Unless the new administration takes steps to fix these more fundamental issues, even a 100% efficiency-proven AES cannot ensure the protection of democratic processes.

Not-for-profit public interest organizations of the Philippines have independently requested international exposure of human rights violations and for outside observers to ask their respective governments to cut military funding to armies that neither comply with human rights laws nor respect the political will of the people.  In the case of the People’s IOM in 2010, such parties asked us to inform others that civilians are the ones who suffer the most when the military and armed rebel groups engage in combat.  These Philippine citizens also protest the exploitation of land by large-scale mining companies and the development of environmentally dangerous plantations.

V. RECOMMENDATIONS

The above-mentioned observations were not isolated events and indicate that the Philippine government is not committed to holding free and fair elections. The overall nature of our findings are consistent with those of our colleagues in other parts of the country as well as with PIOM’s comprehensive 2007 report. The Philippine government must address the following issues:

  • International best practices must be considered, including preserving secrecy of the ballot, ensuring all eligible voters are on the voting list, and devoting adequate resources to ensure speedy and efficient voting.
  • Ballots, memory cards and voting machines must be kept secure at all times, but without creating an atmosphere that leads to voter intimidation.
  • Legal action must be taken against politicians and military officials who are complicit in electoral and human rights violations.
  • The Philippine government at the national level must take concrete steps toward meaningful economic improvement for the country’s poor (who comprise the majority of the Philippine population) in order to end the ease with which politicians and candidates buy votes and manipulate elections.#
Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

TEAM REPORT: Lanao del Sur

Lanao del Sur, located in Western Mindanao has 39 municipalities and one city — the provincial capital, Marawi City.  Majority of its population are Muslims. The agricultural province is home to the Maranaos, which means “People of the Lake” — one of the 13 ethno-linguistic tribes of Muslim Filipinos, collectively known as the Bansamoro (a term that means “Moro nation”).

Lanao del Sur is one of the five provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and is one of the poorest performers in terms of human development according to Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) in 2005. PHDR in 2008/2009 also pointed out that Lanao del Sur is at the bottom 10 of the provinces in the Philippines in terms of real per capita income, human development index, and gender-related index.  According to the same report, it is the fifth poorest province in the country.  The National Anti-Poverty Commission’s (NAPC) Summaries revealed that all the province’s 13 municipalities where a failure-of-election was declared in 2007 were part of the 40 Poorest of the Poor Communities in the country.

The People’s IOM Team was briefed by community members that many Maranaos harbor a deep-seated mistrust of the system of government imposed on them by foreign colonizers. This mistrust of government grows out of centuries of systemic injustices, which include land dispossession, impoverishment, minoritization, family rivalries, power struggles, warlordism, prejudice, and violence. The widely held negative portrayal of Muslims unjustifiably shapes labeling, and they are being mocked as natural-born cheaters and perpetually violent individuals. Any democratic election in the country happens in this context, which helps us understand vote buying, violence, and corruption, and gives us a lens through which to examine the dynamics of imposing a particular election system on a local context.

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

The PIOM team assigned to Lanao del Sur, worked in partnership with the Kapamagompong 2010 Interfaith Observers’ Mission of the Healing Democracy Project, based in Marawi City. Prior to election day, the team met with the provincial superintendent of the Philippines National Police and visited the Provincial COMELEC office. On election day, the team divided into three sub-teams visiting polling places in the municipalities of Sultan Dumalongong, Masiu, Lumbayanague, Butig, Ramain, Taraka, Camalig, and Tugaya. Based on observations and interviews, the team presents the following findings:

Provincial COMELEC in disarray

Upon our arrival in Marawi City, we were surprised to learn that the National COMELEC had replaced the provincial election supervisor just one week before election day. His replacement, Manila attorney Rafael B. Olaño, could not be located the day before the election. However, we did find a curious memo posted outside the Provincial COMELEC office. Addressed to National COMELEC in Manila, dated May 7th, and signed by attorney Olaño, the memo requested that vote counting and canvassing for all of Lanao del Sur be centralized in Marawi City.

While there, we interviewed a woman from Sultan Dumalongong who had come to make an eleventh-hour appeal for the appointment of BEIs and the delivery of PCOS machines and ballots for her municipality. We also interviewed a man from Masiu, who had come to challenge the COMELEC decision to move voting for the 35 Barangays of the municipality to a centralized location. These encounters led the PIOM team to include Sultan Dumalongong and Maisu in their visits on election day.

Rampant violation of election laws

The team observed rampant violations of the electoral laws. There seems to be a culture of impunity for violators: we observed only a few isolated attempts by BEIs or COMELEC officials to stop or even admonish violators (e.g., by telling unauthorized persons to leave the polling room). We note that in 2007 “to date, no one has been penalized for election offenses.” (Kapamagompong 2010: Concept Paper)

Access to polling rooms was not strictly controlled, as it should be. As a result of the crowded conditions in most polling rooms for much of the voting period, ballot secrecy was compromised, and “wrongful voter assistance” was facilitated. We commonly observed poll watchers, family members, and others discussing the ballot with voters, in some cases filling in the ballot for the voter. We also observed voters sitting shoulder to shoulder while filling in their ballots, often discussing their voting choices. Also, people outside the polling room were shouting names and handing electoral selections to voters inside the room. Further, those on the outside could observe the ballots being filled in by voters sitting near the lattice wall.

We observed voters being given ballots which were already “shaded.” In most cases, these ballots were fed into the machine by BEIs. Many kinds of candidates’ election materials were found in all of the polling rooms, including sample ballots already filled in to form a “who to vote for” guide.

Often, due to problems with PCOS machines rejecting ballots not precisely entered by voters, it became regular practice for BEIs to feed ballots into the machines. Very few polling places used ballot security folders. In one room, the PCOS machine had been separated from the ballot box and ballots were folded and placed directly into the box by BEIs. At the same venue, ballots were placed in a single ballot secrecy folder under the control of BEIs.

Underage voting was observed, and we were informed by one group of 14/15 year olds that they were paid to vote and intended to do so.

We noted that indelible ink was in short supply in one precinct. When it ran out during voting time it was not replenished. In another precinct it simply had not been used. When the observers inquired about this, a Smartmatic technician opened the ink package and told a BEI that it should be used. While it was used briefly, when the observers checked a short time later, the ink was not being applied. It also became clear that the ink was not really indelible. Voters were observed who had voted and who successfully washed off the ink, which would have allowed them to vote again. We also observed an unauthorized person (a candidate’s supporter) applying the ink to the finger of those who had voted.

Vote buying was practiced. Voters were observed accepting money as they were entering the polling room. Many informants indicated that this traditional electoral phenomenon was widespread in the current election, beginning some days prior to and continuing up to election day. His demonstration of some of the techniques matched what we observed. In one precinct, a poll watcher was paying voters as they entered the polling room.

From conversations we had with a number of voters we had grave concerns about the integrity of the voter registration rolls. We could not confirm the existence of “flying voters,” but we were informed by a precinct captain that it was possible as the COMELEC purge of the voter registration rolls had been “minimal,” leaving double registrations of voters. Conversations with a number of voters suggested that this traditional electoral practice would certainly occur. Another observation was that although COMELEC had purged the voter registration roll in one precinct of 120 voters, ballots were sent to the precinct without regard to the purging.

The team received reports that some local election contests had been “fixed” before election day, and in one case this allegedly involved the payment Php 20 million to another candidate to back off. We could not confirm the specific case, but we have been informed that such arrangements are a traditional practice in Filipino elections.

Some technical violations occurred. For example, not all precincts had voter lists publicly displayed. Some precincts opened late, and in one cluster voting did not commence until the PCOS machines arrived at 9:30 a.m. Due to technical problems and BEI unfamiliarity with ballot feeding, the PCOS machine in one precinct was not operating until 10:50 a.m.

Automated election system

The 2010 election has been dominated by discussion, both positive and negative, regarding the introduction of the automated election system. Due to their introduction, by and large, this election has been characterized as a step forward in the democratic processes of the Philippines. Nevertheless, our team in Lanao del Sur observed a multitude of irregularities which contradict popular sentiment, particularly that of COMELEC. These findings and specific cases include the following:

No access to electricity, inadequate battery capacity, untrained BEI and Smartmatic-TIM technicians, PCOS machines not present in precincts, PCOS boxes unopened, PCOS machines arriving with broken seals, more than a dozen machines did not transmit results and Compact Flash card results could not be downloaded. In Tugaya a PCOS machine rejected 3 ballots, which were put aside, rather than being reinserted into the machine. This is in violation of the procedure; four attempts are to be provided. In Butig, we were told PCOS machines were not used because the local COMELEC official did not want immediate election results available to be announced at the close of polls, for fear that the volatile community would erupt in violence. In Ramain, PCOS machines were in use, but poll watchers were observed taking completed ballots from voters and feeding them into the machines themselves. In Taraka, where PCOS machines were not being used, some completed ballots were stuffed into the ballot box while others were collected in a file folder.

Failure of elections

We found failure of election in two of the eight municipalities we visited. In Sultan Dumalondong, no election was held because all of the BEIs were challenged by rival parties alleging conflict of interest because of family relations of the inspectors. Despite advance notice of this conflict and failure of elections in 2007 for the same reason, COMELEC made no contingency plans to address this problem. In fact, by the morning of election day, COMELEC had sent no ballots, election materials, or PCOS machines. At least 7180 registered voters were denied their right to cast a ballot on election day in Sultan Dumalongong.

In Masiu no election was held due to the absence of BEIs to conduct the election. We heard conflicting accounts from various sources: that Inspectors failed to arrive without explanation at the clustered polling location of 30 precincts at the Masiu Municipal Building; that ten BEIs arrived but were turned away by members of the AFP; that the BEIs did not show up out of fear; and that the BEI’s did not approve of the centralized voting and feared the likelihood of cheating under this arrangement. In any event, no election was held in the municipality of Masiu, and more than 15,000 registered voters there were denied their right to participate in this election.

In addition to the two failures of election that we witnessed, newspapers reported that COMELEC declared failure of elections in at least 17 municipalities out of a total of 39 municipalities in Lanao del Sur.

Violence at the polls

The situation of election violence in Lanao del Sur is complex.  Police and election officials claimed that there was no pre-election violence and confirmed that there had been no arrests.  Shooting incidents are regularly attributed to “rido,” or feuding between families, which allows officials to declare that these are not election-related. On the other hand, the context of the ARMM area involves cultural practices and traditions including kinship allegiances and local family-based authority structures that do not easily combine with the democratic electoral process in its present form.  Consequently the election process exaggerates tensions between rival family groups, which sets in motion the conditions for violence between these parties to surface and escalate around elections.  The fact that the electoral process did not match the available infrastructure in terms of factors like power supply and comfort level with use of the technology only adds to the atmosphere of tension that contributes to violence as many peacefully gathered voters were frustrated with delays and inefficiencies.

In the rural municipality of Tugaya an incident of gun violence broke out at the Central Elementary School where voting had yet to begin in 14 of 16 precincts at 10:20 am.  When voting irregularities were observed in the two precincts which had opened, a journalist with our team was threatened with violence if he did not stop documenting abuses, despite wearing his COMELEC-issued media identification allowing him to be present in the precinct.  High levels of tension and frustration became apparent when the crowd started to stampede as a result of shoving which began in response to a distribution of snacks by a candidate.  Shortly thereafter, conflict broke out between supporters of rival mayoral candidates over the presence of poll watchers within a precinct.  A fight inside the precinct ensued and a poll watcher was ejected, bleeding from the head.  The scuffle spilled out into the courtyard where an estimated 3,000 voters were still waiting to vote.  At that point two non-uniformed men entered the courtyard with handguns drawn, accompanied by a police officer carrying a long gun. In spite the efforts by some in the crowd to restrain the gunmen, shots rang out causing the crowd to flee in panic. During the ensuing panic a member of our team photographed an unidentified woman wearing no ID carrying a PCOS machine through the crowd.  The gunfire escalated into a running battle consisting of semi-automatic and automatic gunfire, plus the firing of a limited number of rocket-propelled grenades.  The firefight continued for approximately one and a half hours until interrupted by the call for noon prayers.  Observers left Tugaya at that time.  One person was killed by shrapnel from a grenade and two others wounded during the firefight.  We received subsequent reports of additional gun violence later in the afternoon resulting in two deaths, including a 14 year-old visitor to Tugaya.

The police supervisor at the Camalig school told us that she had insufficient troops to take action on violations of election law and that in any case her job was to guarantee security, therefore taking action on election violations might contradict that larger goal. The failure by the police to intervene in the gun battle at Tugaya is more difficult to explain.  The provincial police commander reported that he had made no arrests for violations of the gun ban since an initial 18 arrests in January.

Three bombing incidents occurred in three different polling precincts in Lanao del Sur.

Parish-Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Lanao Del Sur and Marawi City Chairperson, Rev. Chito Soganub, confirmed that there were three bombings in Lanao del Sur; these were in Mindanao State University, Tugaya Central Elementary School, and Amai Pakpak Elementary School.

“In Mindanao State University in Marawi, three improvised bombs exploded 30-50 meters from the entrance gate at around 7:45 a.m. In Tugaya Central Elementary School, at around 10:30 a.m., a bomb exploded in a black Isuzu Highlander van. What’s surprising in this incident is that the key was left in the car,” Rev. Soganub said. “The third bombing happened in Amai Pakpak Elementary School at around 11:00 a.m. There were also three consecutive explosions,” he added.

However, in these three bombing incidents, no one was harmed. Rev. Soganub thinks that “these series of bombings only want to cause terror and disrupt the process of elections.

He also dismissed the possibility of MILF’s involvement in the bombings, “I think the issue is outside the MILF issue, it is an issue of simply causing terror, and besides MILF does not have anything to do with our elections,” he explained.

The idea that elections were peaceful was widely touted by the government in the days leading up to the election.  In the days immediately following the election the media has widely accepted the assertion  of the Arroyo government that these elections were indeed peaceful.  When the three deaths in Tugaya and the 57 people killed in pre-election violence in neighbouring Ampatuan in November 2009 are added to the seventeen killed in other parts of the Philippines on election day, it is clear that these elections can not be judged peaceful by any international standard.

Vote canvassing

In Marawi City’s Municipal Hall, where most election returns from different municipalities of Lanao Del Sur were centralized, canvassing was delayed. Some municipalities, including Lumbayanague and Batig, were not finished counting votes until late afternoon.

Also, many Smartmatic technicians and BEIs were not able to come to the site on time. Many were caught in the uproar outside the Municipal Hall, as PNP and AFP “prevents people from overcrowding the site.”

As of 3:30 p.m., when the observers from Healing Democracy left the site, the canvassing had not started yet.

PEOPLE’S INITIATIVES

In Lanao del Sur, the PIOM delegates worked in partnership with the Kapamagompong 2010 Interfaith Observers’ Mission of the Healing Democracy Project. This was an election observers’ mission that drew together participants from interfaith and secular communities in the Philippines and internationally, to assess the conduct of the May 10, 2010 national elections vis-a-vis the international standards that apply to conduct of genuine democratic elections. “Kapamagompong” is the Maranao term for “gathering.”

The objective of this mission was to bring to the attention of the interfaith and secular communities, both locally and internationally, the extent of election-related fraud and violence in Lanao del Sur. Also, to muster international pressure on the candidates against committing fraud and violence and support the people’s efforts to protect their votes.

In preparation for the election, Kapamagompong 2010 Interfaith Observers’ Mission of the Healing Democracy Project conducted voters’ education and trained election observers who were dispatched on election day to 30 of 39 municipalities in Lanao del Sur. A questionnaire was drafted to assist them in their evaluation and observation of the election. This one-year project was started in December 2009, specifically for the 2010 national elections.

In addition, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in Lanao Del Sur also was monitoring the election, giving particular attention to failures of elections in different municipalities of the province. They also monitored the series of bombings in Marawi City. PPCRV was established in 1991 to work for clean and honest elections. Every election period, they conduct monitoring during election day and canvassing day.

CONCLUSION

The team was deeply disappointed in the conduct of the election in the aforementioned towns of Lanao del Sur, where violations of election laws and procedures were so widespread that a greater part of the province could be declared a “democratic disaster area.”  In Lanao del Sur, the inefficiency, incompetence and corruption of the electoral process by COMELEC and Smartmatic exacerbated by rivalries of clans in the locality and economic inequality, resulted in a miscarriage of democracy.

We hope that by bringing these findings to light, lessons can be learned to ensure that future elections will be free and fair, and that the Philippines will one day live up to its potential as a vibrant democracy.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. Take action to eliminate violence by strict enforcement of the gun ban and eliminate delays on election day which encourage tensions to rise
  2. Study social, economic, political and cultural structures as they relate to processes of democratic elections among the peoples of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
  3. Take action to strictly enforce the electoral laws and end the culture of impunity which COMELEC has permitted to continue for many years

Make COMELEC accountable to address the discrepancies shown by the application of the Automatic Election System and the existing infrastructure and provide alternatives where necessary.

Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

AREA PROFILE: Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao

LANAO DEL SUR Province is home to Maranaos, which means “People of the Lake”  and one of the Islamized thirteen ethno-linguistic tribes of the Bangsamoro (a term that means ‘Moro nation’).  The province, as a part of the perennial poorest Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), is one the poorest performers in terms of human development according to Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) in 2005. PHDR in 2008/2009 also pointed out that Lanao del Sur is at the bottom 10 of the provinces in the Philippines in terms of real per capita income, human development index and gender-related index.  According to the same report, it is the 5th poorest province in the country.

Furthermore, beyond the boundaries of the province, discrimination and exclusion confront Muslims thereby narrowing their choices like in job hiring, school admission, house leasing.  Muslims are also stereotyped  as cheaters with a culture of violence.

Lanao del Sur never fails to get an extraordinary nationwide interest come every election time because of numerous cases of poll-related fraud and violence that characterize the elections in the province. In a backdrop of a province holding records of high poverty incidence, a ballot is a material object treated as property which can be sold to the highest bidders.

Political warlordism also reigns to ensure political obedience.  Aside from the use of the state armed forces to quell the political enemy, family affiliation contributes to the perpetuation of warlordism where family members serve as foot soldiers.  The history of rido (clan feud) among the candidates also fuels electoral violence.

Marawi City is the provincial capital of Lanao del Sur, which is located in Western Mindanao, south of the Philippines. It has a population of 131, 090 (2000 government census) while Lanao del Sur has an approximate population of 668,860 (2000 government census), with approximately 390,000 registered voters in 2007.

Its economy is primarily agricultural. Small industries are engaged in garment-making, mat and malong weaving, woodcraft, brassware-making and other metal craft. Social services in the city are sorely lacking.

During the 2007 elections, the following were seen as the more common forms of electoral fraud and violence:

  • Voters having more than one finger marked with ink;
  • Voters freely admitting to having voted several times and paid a minimum of P50 for every vote for municipal and city councilors to as much as P2,000 per vote for mayoralty candidates;
  • Poll watchers sitting beside voters and dictating the names to be written in the ballots;
  • Peso bills stapled on sample ballots and campaign leaflets being passed on to the voters through window grills;
  • Ballpens in voting booths with stickers bearing candidate’s names written on them;
  • Minors as young as 15 years old allowed to vote;
  • Voters’ list are not posted outside precincts, and no Secrecy Folders and list of candidates for national and local positions;
  • Members of the Philippine National Police-Regional Special Action Force dictating to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) when the precincts would be closed, while carrying assault and sniper rifles inside the precincts.

Also in 2007, thirteen municipalities of Lanao del Sur declared a failure of election, and postponed the voting by 12 days after poll officers refused to serve in the polls because of harassment from armed men believed to be aligned with warring political candidates.  Armed goons reportedly roamed several towns, firing their guns, scaring people and election officials.  The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism also noted the unusually high increase in the number of registered voters.  From 275,572 in 2004, the number rose to 396,722, an increase of 43.9 percent in three years. Of the 13 municipalities holding special elections, two towns had an increase of over 100 percent that, according to National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) Chairperson Hadji Abdullah Dalidig, is “statistically improbable.”  No less than the then  COMELEC Chair, Benjamin Abalos, admitted that there were more than 100,000 multiple registrants in ARMM that were not excluded from the voter’s list in the region’s elections on August 2005. In Masiu town, Kontra-Daya, another anti-fraud body, noted voters who were not marked with indelible ink on their fingers, and when asked, casually answered, “so that we can vote again.” They also documented cases where BEIs deliberately did not read votes cast for some senatorial candidates, and empty official tally sheets used as a table cloth.

On October 20, 2009, hints that the 2010 polls will again become a venue of violence and fraud came out: when a grenade exploded near an on-going registration of voters at the City Hall of the Islamic City of Marawi, killing one instantly and injuring 20 others. In the town of Tamparan, armed men indiscriminately fired at registrants, injuring five.

Political maneuverings start during the registration of voters in Lanao del Sur because this is when all the candidates will field their flying voters to be registered. Or there are those who are sowing fear through violence so that the mobilized voters of the opponent cannot register and vote. According to Fr. Chito Suganob of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the attempt to gather flying voters is doubling now “since politicians can’t cheat because of the modernized [automated] system of voting” in 2010.  This early, the towns of Lumbayanague, Lumbatan, Maguing and Pualas are closely watched because of intense political rivalries.

To help address this situation of rampant fraud and violence, a church-based organization has started the formation of voters’ collective that will conduct voters’ education, and is collectively monitoring and documenting pre, actual and post-election irregularities.#

Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

TEAM REPORT: Iloilo

In Iloilo, the People’s International Observers Mission has designated Iloilo City and Estancia as areas to observe being election “hot spots”. In both areas, fraud, corruption and election related violence are rampant affecting the people’s democratic rights. PIOM assigned a team to both areas to observe the elections and report their findings.

The political climate in Iloilo City was intensifying as election day approached.  In Iloilo City, Raul Gonzales Sr., former Secretary of the Department of Justice, one of the brains of Oplan Bantay Laya, was running for Mayor against Undersecretary Larry Jamora.  Gonzales Sr.’s son Raul Gonzales Jr. was running for Congress. Two bombing incidents occurred when campaign season started in March, targeting Mayor Jerry Trenas.  In addition, Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog was stoned during his series of sorties by unidentified people. Military personnel were deployed to Iloilo City prior to the elections.  Cause-oriented groups opposed the plan to deploy military to Iloilo City, as they believed this would cause more violence and harassment against the people and especially the progressive sectors.

In Estancia, Boy Mosqueda was running for re-election as Mayor against Rene Cordero.  Mosqueda is a retired police general who had formerly implemented counter-insurgency witchhunts in Bicol and currently is known to have the local Philippine National Police (PNP) at his command.  In 2005, he was publicly investigated by the Senate for receiving money from jueteng from First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.  Cordero was formerly mayor right before Mosqueda was elected in 2007.  Issues of corruption and extortion activities and political violence marred Mayor Mosqueda’s three years in office.

Violence and Harassment

In both Iloilo City and Estancia there were several accounts of violence and harassment at several voting centers and targeting of specific candidates. On May 9th, Vice Mayor Catedral of Lambunao requested that the Iloilo team conduct an interview of a recent shooting incident. He reported that the previous night his house had been strafed by gun fire and that the suspects were goons of Mayor Gonzales. He reported this to the local Chief of Police. After the media interviewed the Chief of Police in the morning, he reported that no shootings or acts of violence had occurred. However by the late afternoon, a radio announced that there was gun fire at the Vice Mayor’s house. The evening after our team left Lambunao, three houses of the Vice Mayor’s supporters were burned down.

In Estancia, the employee of the incumbent mayor, Boy Mosqueda, shot one campaigner for the mayoral candidate of the opposition, R Cordero.  Also, a Cordero candidate suffered a grenade attack at his home. In addition, a known supporter of the opposition was clubbed by a PNP police officer. None of these crimes have been resolved by local police, and the victims expressed frustration with police indifference to politically motivated crimes against the opposition.

In direct violation of voting regulations, the Estancia team observed police about 10 meters from the polling place (and inside the school grounds) at Poblacion.  We saw the PNP from in front of the Daculan polling center rush in and enter the grounds up to the door of the precinct. They were armed with M16 armalites and billy clubs and surrounded the precinct.  When questioned, the PNP said that they were there to “pacify” the voters who were agitated about the long line. However, the Estancia’s team assessment noted that the voters were not particularly agitated and did not need to be “pacified”. We also witnessed the personal security guards of both mayoral candidates in Estancia enter the school grounds where the voting booths were located, with guns visible.

When interviewed, the COMELEC official of Estancia (Connie Jaranilla) mentioned that she had been having difficulties with Mayor Mosqueda’s influence on the PNP and as a result asked certain police officers to be removed.  She called in the RMG (Regional Mobile Group) for the elections and Estancia was named an “Area of Concern.”  She also called in the 47th infantry battalion.  This army regiment of 12 was brought into the Municipal Hall on May 10th to remain until a winner was declared.  However the regiment was still in the Municipal Hall on May 12th, more than 24 hours after the winner of the election had been called.

Automated Election System

Both teams observed several accounts of PCOS failures that caused long lines and waiting periods to vote. On May 9th, the Iloilo team observed a dry run of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. The PCOS appeared to be working and accepting and reading ballots. The testers (teachers) appeared to be well trained and easily handled the technology.

On May 10th, the Iloilo team arrived at the voting center at SPED Elementary at 6:45 am. One precinct had the wrong ballots delivered and the PCOS machine did not accept them. Voting in this precinct was delayed one hour as Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) waited for COMELEC to deliver the correct ballots.

By 12 pm it became clear in all the precincts that the voting process was backing up, lines began to lengthen, and voters had to wait for several hours. This was due partly to failures in the PCOS machines. In one case a machine had a paper jam and the relevant technician was not available, as he himself had left to vote. This precinct had over 900 voters and by 2.00pm only 350 voters had cast their votes.

In Estancia an average of 1% of ballots were counted as invalid at the precincts with determination of the reason for invalidity unclear. Some precincts saw “power downs”, loss of electricity, and significant trouble transmitting the results when voting had finished. In San Roque, voting finished around 7pm but the BEIs were subsequently facing a number of failed transmissions for at least an hour. We witnessed broken seals on at least 5 PCOS machines; the yellow loop was broken or absent with tape in place to hold the compartment closed.  We understand that this calls into question the integrity of the results. One PCOS machine was left unattended and unsecured over night, prior to the election at The National School, Estancia. We received reports that only 11/50 ballots at Lumbia were accepted as of 9:10 am. The rest were rejected by the AES machine.

Voting Process

Overall, the logistics of the process were ineffective causing extremely prolonged waiting periods for voting. Training prior to the election did not focus on the logistics of the voting process outside of the automated machines and thus procedures varied from precinct to precinct with vastly different outcomes.

In Estancia, BEIs did not have enough training or support in order to facilitate the volume of voters.  During the testing and sealing of the machines, the start up on the morning of May 10th, and the transmission of the results the BEIs were seen to be unsure of the process, arguing over what was to be done as well as referring to the manual repeatedly.

In both Estancia and Iloilo, there was no regulated method for admitting the voters to the precinct. For example, letting groups of ten into the precinct at a time and not calling for the next ten until all voters had completed their ballots. Working on this ‘convey principle’ further lengthened voting lines.  Other BEIs worked on the principle of one voter in, one voter out which was far more efficient.

In still other cases wait list numbers were given and called out later.  In Pa On priority entrance was given to seniors and those with children, resulting in wait times for others of upwards of 10 hours.  In at least one location (Zone 1, Estancia) voters were allowed to wait within the precinct amidst those voting.

In addition, the ballots were made more confusing by the fact that most instructions were only written in English.  For example, “Vote for no more than 12 Senators” would be difficult to understand for someone who speaks no English. This caused some voters to vote for more candidates than is allowed, and subsequently the section of ballot to be declared invalid

Overall voters in both Iloilo City and Estancia reported that the electronic system took far longer than the manual system and compared to previous occasions when they had voted.  Voters seemed to be determined to vote and be prepared to put up with a high degree of physical discomfort whilst doing so, i.e. heat, hunger and lack of seats. Many also had children with them who had to be cared for. The location of the polling precincts in the schools caused many to line up under the direct sun with no shade while waiting.  There was no water or food available within some polling centers, whilst others were well served by vendors. We received a report that someone died from heatstroke in Malbog, Estancia, while waiting to vote.

By 4 pm the majority of voters in Iloilo City and Estancia had been waiting for 4 to 5 hours. The longest waiting periods we encountered in Iloilo City were 10 hours and in Estancia 11.5 hours. Some voters in the morning left in hopes of returning in the afternoon to fall back in shorter lines. However, as the day wore on the voting lines got increasingly longer.  As lines got longer, voters got increasingly angry and some went home and/or noted that they would not be voting again if the automated system stayed in place.

In Estancia specifically, lines had begun to form at all polling places when voting commenced. A majority of the precincts saw lines of 50-150 for the entirety of the morning. Logistical problems surrounding the voting process kept average voting time from 7-15 minutes. Many of those that had queued up before polls opened had not voted until well into the afternoon. We interviewed Precious Pagayunan at Precinct 37 A + B, 38 A +B, 39 A, 40 A and 41A (Botongon School).  She had been waiting non-stop since 7 am, and had still not voted at 7 pm.  She witnessed many people leave the polls in frustration with the long waiting time.  As of 7 pm, 316 out of 912 voters had successfully cast ballots at this precinct.  We documented waiting time of 1:15 minutes at Northern Polytechnic State College as of 8:15 am (Gilda Daguna).  We also documented waiting time of 4 hours at Lumbia.  Significant lines were still seen at almost all precincts upon the official close of the voting period at 7pm. Approximately 150 people were still lined up In one precinct, Daculan. Final poll results were ready for transmission starting around 8pm, with other precincts not ready to transmit for several more hours.

Poll Irregularities

The Iloilo City and Estancia teams observed electioneering materials present within the precinct areas on the day of election. These included sample ballot papers with the relevant candidates name shaded in and fans and umbrellas with candidate’s names on. Children were being used to hand out the sample ballot papers. The locals also informed us of vote buying going on outside the gates of one school. While in Estancia COMELEC officials confiscated campaign materials, in Iloilo City BEI, COMELEC officials and police failed to stop obvious signs of fraud.

The Estancia team observed candidate supporters passing out campaign materials and food and drinks on election day.  This occurred in the presence of the Region Mobile group (RMG) and the Regional COMELEC official (Coloso) in Pa-On. Interviews also revealed some voters who were given bags of groceries voters in exchange for their vote for the incumbent mayor in Estancia.

CONCLUSION

    • Overly large clusters of voters meant that the technological system struggled to be fit for its purpose.
    • It was only because of the high tolerance level of voters, and determination to vote, that the system did not collapse.
    • Voter turn out is likely to have gone down as a result of long waiting time.
    • Harassment, vote buying and illegal electioneering were in evidence.
    • Other facilitators could be deployed apart from the police. Vendors can be allowed in polling stations to provide food and water to the voters.
    • Politically motivated crimes were evident and should be addressed.
    • More technical support should be available in the precincts and more machines available per capita.
Posted by: piom2010 | June 1, 2010

AREA PROFILE West Visayas: Iloilo

ILOILO CITY is the regional center of  Western Visayas or Region VI.  It is the region’s economic center with about 8,407 business establishment as of December 2003.  It is also the educational center of the region as reflected by the numbers of private and state universities.

In the 2007 census, Iloilo City had a population of 418,710 with a 2.0% annual growth rate.  It has 181 barangays and more than 200,000 registered voters.

Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is 66.0% (April, 2003). 79.5% of the labor force are employed while 20.5% constitute the unemployment rate; and visible underemployed rate is 11.9%.  Of the employed person by type of industry: 82% belongs to the service sector, 14% to the industry sector and only 4% are in agriculture (as of April 2003 FIES, NSO).

Sixty percent (60%) of the population are urban dwellers.

The city is led by Mayor Jerry Trenas.  He is on his last term as a mayor and he is vying for a congressional seat against the incumbent congressman Raul Gonzalez Jr., the son of former Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez.

Former Secretary Raul Gonzales Sr. is also vying for a mayoral seat against the incumbent Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog who is running for mayor in Iloilo City.  Gonzales Sr. is a well known staunch ally of President Gloria Macapagal  Arroyo and believed to be one of the think tank of Oplan Bantay Laya counter insurgency program of the Arroyo government.

Undersecretary Larry Jamora is also running for mayor in Iloilo City.

The political climate in Iloilo City intensifies as election day gets nearer.  Two bombing incidents happened when the local campaigns started last March 26.  The first one was at Carlo’s Bakeshop owned by Mayor Jerry Trenas in Iloilo City. The second bombing incident was at the ancestral house of Mayor Jerry Trenas in Molo, Iloilo City.  Nobody was hurt but several structural damages were incurred.

Vice Mayor Jed Mabilog was stoned during his series of sorties by unidentified people.

Due to these incidents of harassments and intimidation, Mayor Jerry Trenas asked the assistance of the COMELEC for more police visibility and to put Iloilo City under COMELEC control

The business community, transport groups and militant groups condemn such violence and asked candidates for peaceful and fair elections.

At present, Iloilo City is considered as a “hotspot”.  Military personnel are being deployed in Iloilo City.

Cause-oriented groups are opposing the plan to deploy military forces in the city.  They believe this will create more violence and harassment against the people and especially the progressive sectors.

MUNICIPALITY

OF ESTANCIA, ILOILO

ESTANCIA is located in the northern part of Iloilo province approximately 135 kilometers from the capital of the province Iloilo City.  It has a total population of 41,029 as of 2005 census where majority of the population is engaged in fishing and farming industry.  It has more than 23,000 registered voters. Women comprised 49.99% of the total population.

Estancia is known around the country as a center for commercial fishing, so much so that it carries the name “Alaska of the Philippines” as a testament to its bountiful marine resources.

The reason for this is that Estancia lies in the Visayan Sea Triangle, an imaginary triangle extending from the provinces of Iloilo, Negros, Cebu, Samar and Masbate.  This triangle is a part of the “Sulu – Sulaweisi Triangle” of the Sulu Sea and neighboring Indonesia where a large concentration of marine organisms coupled with climate conditions support a massive marine ecosystem.  Various commercial species are harvested along Estancia’s waters, namely mackerel, barracuda, sardines, shad, pompano, grouper, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, prawn, shells, seaweeds and others.

Your browser may not support display of this image. However, the Municipality of Estancia is considered as a 4th class municipality despite its vast marine resources.  It has only an average annual income of Php 25-35 M average.  Majority of the population is poor and is getting poorer everyday due to anti-poor programs of the local government.

The current local government is headed by a retired police general Mayor Restituto Mosqueda who is running for his second term.  Mosqueda has been linked to the illegal number games jueteng with the First Gentleman Mike Arroyo before his stint as mayor in Estancia.  He was publicly investigated by the Senate in 2005 for allegedly receiving pay off money from jueteng.

Corruption twinned with political violence marred the local governance of Mayor Mosqueda in his three years in office.

Additional taxes and extortion activities were imposed, a big deficit worth millions of public funds due to personal expenses was incurred, absent basic social services and the promotion of illegal gambling and fishing activities are just a few of the social realities under the leadership  of Mayor Mosqueda.

Estancia is also one of the many drop-off points of illegal drugs entering the province.  The mayor is allegedly linked up with illegal drugs dealing.

There’s a climate of fear and impunity under the undeclared martial rule of the current mayor. Several cases of harassments, intimidation were undocumented due to its inaccessibility to media, especially those inflicted on members of the progressive party list party Bayan Muna.

As the election day is fast approaching, Mayor Mosqueda employs all dirty tactics to stay in power.  Campaign paraphernalia of his rival candidates including those of progressive candidates and partly list parties are intentionally removed in designated poster areas.  Opposition leaders were harassed and active anti-communist propaganda is propagated through his controlled local radio station and mobile campaign teams against Bayan Muna local and national candidates.

Armed men believed to be the goons of Mosqueda are regularly doing night patrol in the communities to create terror and force the people to vote for him.

Due to the town’s geographical distance from Iloilo and its inaccessibility to media, majority of the people are afraid to speak up.

In the 2007 elections Estancia was an electoral hotspot due to the presence of armed men and several electoral atrocities in the area.  A rival candidate for vice mayor under the opposition ticket was shot by widely-believed to be goons of General Mosqueda during the 2007 elections.  Additional police forces were then dispatched by the COMELEC and a peace covenant was signed by both political parties.

It is again considered a “hotspot” area in the coming elections.#

The City of Manila is divided into six congressional districts for easy political identification. All these six districts are sub-divided into 100 zones and 897 barangays (the smallest political unit in the city). The old administrative 14 districts became 17 due to the redefining of congressional district boundaries. Tondo was divided into two – Tondo I which is the first congressional district and Tondo II, the second congressional district.

DISTRICT LAND AREA (ha) ZONESS COVERED NO. ZONES NO. OF BARANGAYS
I 5.64 1-12 12 137
II 3.46 13-24 12 122
III 6.23 25-40 16 123
IV 7.9 41-57 17 192
V 9.59 68-89 22 184
VI 5.48 58-67; 90-100 11 139
TOTAL 38.3 (38.55 km2) 100 897

With a population of 1,581,082 and a land area of 38.55 km², Manila has the highest population density of any major city in the world with 41,014 people/km² (with district 6 being the most dense with 68,266, followed by the first two districts (Tondo) with 64,936 and 64,710, respectively, and district 5 being the least dense with 19,235). A million more transients are added during daytime as students and workers come to the city.

TONDO is located in the northwest section of the city of Manila, north of the Pasig river. It is the biggest of the 16 districts in the city, and the most densely populated with the number of households at 121,489, and the largest population at 590, 307 or one-third of the total city population. The district has 268 villages and covers two congressional districts.

Majority of the residents in Tondo migrated from different provinces in the country.

Landlessness, poverty and militarization in the countryside drove them to settle in Manila, hoping for better lives. Many however, met worse fates as they faced unemployment and became informal settlers in government or private lands, which became the city’s slums.

Most Tondo residents are either unemployed or underemployed. Those employed are usually daily wage earners. Many earn their living as port workers, ambulant market vendors, tricycle and pedicab drivers, who receive meagre income under strenuous, unsanitary and oppressive working conditions. Barely able to provide for their daily needs, let alone decent housing, the Tondo urban poor make do with makeshift dwellings and shanties which are constantly under threat of demolition. Only a small number of urban poor families have benefited from the government’s housing project.

The government plans to develop Tondo as part of the modernization and privatization program of the port district and nearby areas known as the Manila North Harbor Modernization Program. While the project will give way to foreign investors at the port area, it will dislocate almost half a million residents and make thousands lose their jobs.

Militarization also became apparent in Tondo in November 2006. The Arroyo government deployed a battalion-sized Civil Military Operation (CMO) unit in the National Capital Region as Part of its Oplan Bantay Laya 2.

In the guise of conducting civic operations, soldiers roam around the community inquiring about activists and members of party-list groups, residents who join protest rallies and, overall, intimidate residents. They occupied the barangay (community) halls and turned these into their headquarters. The soldiers also tried to convince people to accept the government’s relocation program. Although they claim to be non-partisan in the electoral exercise, the military openly campaigned against the progressive party-list groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party and Kabataan. The anti-urban militarization alliance obtained sworn statements from residents who complained of military harassment.

Below is an account taken from Bulatlat online magazine of recent military activities in different urban areas including Metro Manila

As polls near, military intensifies harassment of leftist bets, groups

By Bulatlat.com

Posted on Mar. 17, 2010 at 7:59pm |

Elements of the military have been roaming around urban centers in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao with the objective of not only of driving these groups from the communities but campaigning against their candidates.

MANILA, Philippines — With the election less than two months away, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has intensified its campaign of intimidation and harassment against progressive organizations and partylist groups, officials of these groups allege.

They said elements of the military have been roaming around urban centers in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog and Mindanao with the objective of not only flushing out these groups from the communities but campaigning against their candidates.

Cherry Clemente, secretary-general of Anakpawis, said the 73rd squad of the Air Force has stationed itself inside a multipurpose hall just beside their local chapter’s office in Valenzuela, one of the cities in Metro Manila. She said eight soldiers even asked Anakpawis members to remove the flag draped on their office door.

On Wednesday, members of Anakpawis and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) stormed the AFP’s urban stations in Valenzuela and Caloocan, demanding that the soldiers stopped harassing their officers and members, candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and progressive partylist groups such as Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Katribu and Kabataan.

“In many instances, they have pretended to do community work in Metro Manila. But in reality, they are carrying out a campaign against progressive partylists and candidates, which is a clear violation of the law,” Clemente said.

As early as January last year, Bulatlat learned that soldiers in civilian clothes have been roaming the communities of Balut and Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila. The soldiers came from the Civil Military Operations (CMO) unit of the AFP.

Based on a factsheet prepared by Gabriela, the soldiers conducted house-to-house visits in Balut, Tondo. They asked residents about their personal circumstances, took photographs and video and asked about the leaders and members of Gabriela in the area.

In Sorsogon, soldiers in full battle gear have also been conducting house-to-house visits in different towns since last week. The supposed survey turned out to be a witchhunt against the Makabayan coalition and progressive partylist groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan and ACT, Makabayan said in a statement.

On February 23, a group of Makabayan volunteers were campaigning for Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza when a certain Maj. Arnal Manjares hit one of the volunteers twice in the face. With a pistol in his hand, Manjares even threatened the volunteers that he would kill them if they ever came back.

In other parts of Mindanao, such as in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Iligan, suspected soldiers in civilian clothes have been dismantling posters and other campaign materials of Ocampo and Maza and of progressive partylist groups.

Meanwhile, elements of the 202nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army went to Sityo Kabute, Barangay Real in Calamba City on March 7, at around 10 p.m. On board a 6×6 truck, the soldiers led by a certain Lt. Ansino said they were there to conduct a “feeding program.” The soldiers belonged to the same unit responsible for the arrest of 43 health workers, also known as Morong 43, on February 6.

Throughout the night, the residents barricaded all the entrance and exit points to their community, blocking the military from entering. The soldiers left in the morning. According to some residents, the soldiers were looking for Bayan Muna leaders in the area.

Bayan Muna- Southern Tagalog tried to reach by phone Calamba City Mayor Joaquin Chipeco who is also the Regional Peace and Order Chief of Region 4-A but he was out of reach. Chipeco had requested the AFP to help in the relief operations for the Ondoy and Pepeng victims in Calamba, but the soldiers stayed on even after the relief operations.

Residents have already signed a petition to drive away the military in their area but they were ignored by the Sangguniang Bayan. The petition was instead passed on to the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Bayan Muna-ST already filed a complaint with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against the soldiers.

In an e-mailed statement, Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao, said the 67th Infantry Battalion based in Baganga, Davao Oriental, is actively campaigning against progressive partylist groups and candidates. “Gen. Eduardo del Rosario, 1003rd Infantry Brigade commander, is in his usual red-tagging mode as he lumped Bayan Muna’s [Joel] Virador, [Ariel] Casilao and [Angela] Librado with the revolutionary movement after former Bayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Alvin Luque declared that he has sought sanctuary with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP),” del Mundo said.

“Palparan is the latest attack dog of the AFP’s 10th Infantry Division, which has been actively campaigning against local candidates and party-lists in Southern Mindanao. It has been maliciously branding the latter as communist fronts while conducting psywar (psychological warfare) operations against the masses during military operations,” del Mundo added, referring to Jovito Palparan, the former general who was allegedly responsible for many of the country’s extrajudicial killings. He has since relocated to Davao City where he continues his campaign of vilification against leftist leaders and activists.

Role of AFP

Already, the Arroyo government is planning to expand the role of soldiers in the 2010 presidential elections.

Defense chief Norberto Gonzales had earlier said a technical working group has been studying and working on the details of a plan that would put the AFP at the “full disposal” of the Comelec, especially in election hotspots.

The move is “terrifying and very alarming,” according to the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR).

The PCPR said that under the guise of “national security” and “peaceful election” campaign, the AFP deploys troops in opposition- influenced areas, including populated communities in Metro Manila.

The group noted that in the past two national elections, the AFP took “an extraordinary role” in the civilian process. “In 2004, the so-called Garci generals helped in manipulating elections in Mindanao to ensure a million-vote lead for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In 2007, the AFP interfered in the electoral process and paved the way for massive cheating and political violence. The deployment of troops in the urban poor areas in Metro Manila and the result of election in Maguindanao explain the extent of military intervention,” said Nardy Sabino, PCPR secretary-general.

The People’s International Observers Mission reported in 2007 that “strong military presence, intimidation and harassment of voters: the military played an extraordinarily active role in the elections, violating its proper role in a democratic society”.

Bangit

With the appointment of Army Chief Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit as new AFP chief, an electoral watchdog expressed fears of a repeat of the “Hello Garci” controversy.

Father Joe Dizon, Kontra Daya convener, said the possible involvement of the AFP in another election scam has increased with the appointment of the new military chief, saying that Bangit is an Arroyo loyalist.

“His appointment exacerbates fears that the AFP will again be used ala-‘Garci generals’,” he said in a statement.

“Bangit hypocritically lays claim to sainthood by working for a peaceful and credible election, conveniently forgetting that the AFP is the Arroyo regime’s single, most dependable electoral machinery for electoral fraud and terrorism,” del Mundo, spokesperson of the NDF-Southern Mindanao, said in a statement.

“Its [AFP’s] ballyhooed Advocacy for Credible Elections is nothing but a machination by the reactionary AFP to push its devious game plan of ensuring Mrs. Arroyo’s victory in the upcoming GRP elections and continue her hold on power,” del Mundo added.

Del Mundo added that Bangit’s pronouncement that the military will not engage in partisan politics is “double-talk as the AFP already unleashed its party-list hound dogs Anad and Bantay headed by rabid anti-communists, Jun Alcover and retired general Jovito Palparan, respectively.” Both had been active in demonizing members and leaders of legal democratic organizations and progressive party-lists, del Mundo said.

Violations

“Armed men roaming and doing house-to-house visits constitute the clearest threat to the peaceful conduct of elections and to electoral democracy, to which any partylist or candidate is entitled. Soldiers in barangays should leave immediately,” Clemente said.

“We condemn the military’s desperate campaign against progressive partylists and lawmakers in their twisted belief that we are fronts of the CPP-NPA [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] in Congress. We abhor such cheap scare tactic, even brandishing rifles in urban communities in order to scare away volunteers and organizers of progressive groups,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

“Perhaps the military is becoming more blatant and outright in its desperation to ruin the congressional bid of representatives of the toiling masses. But whatever scheme they may employ, the central issue is that they have no business staying in barangays in cities,” Clemente pointed out.

“Urban poor communities are not battle zones, the Armed Forces has no business staying there. The military justified their presence as a preemptive measure against the so-called infiltration of the Left in these communities. Maintaining peace and order is the duty of the police, not the armed Forces,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo in an interview with Bulatlat.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said the deployment of soldiers in urban centers is unconstitutional as it violates the provisions of civilian supremacy over the military.

He said soldiers must stay in their camps unless there is rebellion, invasion and lawless violence. Colmenares said that under international law, military bases are prohibited from residential areas because they would endanger the life of the civilians.

Colmenares said military officers can be charged for violating the provisions of the Anti Graft and Corruption Practices Act, which stipulates that the military should be politically neutral all the time.

“They could also be charged for violating the Revised Penal Code for showing libelous PowerPoint presentations that tag progressive partylist groups as fronts of the NPA and for violating the law on child abuse, which stipulates that no troops should be deployed in school buildings and health units,” he said.

“Soldiers should be in the countryside. They do not have enemies here in Metro Manila. Even during the Marcos dictatorship, this is unthinkable. That time, only the Metrocom, PC roam around the cities; you cannot find elements of the Armed Forces here,” said Gene Nisperos of Health Alliance for Democracy (Head). Head has formed a people’s organization in Isla Puting Bato, another community frequented by soldiers.

“The people’s organizations in Isla are growing stronger that the soldiers need to harass and intimidate their leaders. Residents in these communities have learned to assert their rights and this government is afraid of people who are assertive of their rights,” Nisperos said.

“On one hand, this may be viewed as a desperate move of a regime that has no strong foundation, one that is not anchored on the people’s support,” Nisperos said. “If this administration is loved by the people, it does not have to deploy troops to harass its perceived enemies. But this government knows well that it does not have the support of the people, it needs to use force and intimidation. The deployment of troops is a sign of weakness of the national leadership,” he added.

Counter-insurgency

Colmenares said visiting Gabriela members and threatening them is proof that soldiers are not there to perform civic, criminal or counter insurgency acts. “Gabriela members are not armed. So what the military is doing is illegal,” he said. “The problem with the military’s counter-insurgency is they fight those who are unarmed instead of the NPA. For me, this is cowardice on the extreme because it shows that they are afraid to fight in the rural areas.”

Ocampo said that under the national internal security program, the Oplan Bantay Laya, the Armed Forces, National Defense, Cabinet Oversight Committee for Internal Security (COCIS) deem that they cannot end the insurgency if they would only target armed groups in the countryside. “They claim that the existence of legal people’s organizations in the communities and even the party-list representation in Congress are all part of the insurgency. The question is how should they respond to this? Do they need to use armed force against unarmed civilians? This is the major issue here. It is not correct,” he said.

The counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo government has been linked by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston to the spate of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other rights violations.

PAYATAS

Payatas is an urban poor community located near a garbage dumping site. The community is composed of low income employees, construction workers and vendors whose income are below the minimum wage. Other members of the community earn a living through the dumped site as junk dealers and garbage scavengers. Most of them came from the provinces, with not enough education to get good paying jobs.

Their insufficient income makes it difficult to find the money they need when a family gets sick and needs to buy medicines. Despite the proximity of hospitals and clinics, they are unable to pay for basic health care.

Their struggle to survive poverty and hopelessness is a daily trial for them. To get sick is a big crisis for these families. For the daily bread winners, to get sick means being unable to go to work and unable to earn money to buy food for the children. For the children who lack immunization and are malnourished, to get sick means death at a young age.

The community has 40,719 registered voters in 251 established precincts which were clustered in 45 precincts in 5 voting centers.

In the last election in 2007, confusion in locating their assigned precinct and disappearance of voters’ names from the list of registered voters resulted in massive disenfranchisement. With the new automated electoral system more confusion and slow voting is expected.

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.