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Foreign observers aghast at fraud in Philippines election

May. 14, 2007

MANILA — Foreign observers from the Makati team of the People’s International Observers Mission (People’s IOM) witnessed first-hand an incident of vote-buying on the eve of the elections at 10 p.m., May 13, near the intersection of United Nations Avenue and Taft Avenue, in Manila.

The team was driving back from Makati to its lodgings along U.N. Avenue. When they were about to turn the intersection, they stumbled upon a parked vehicle surrounded by many involved individuals, apparently in queue, and waiting for their own turn to approach the vehicle.

It was apparent to the Makati team that “transactions” were taking place within the vehicle, involving the group of people around it.

“Open and astonishing” fraud

Freda Guttman, the team’s foreign delegate from Canada, found this blatant incident, “so open and astonishing”. She related that perennial vote-buying and fraud breeds “cynicism and hopelessness” among voters.

Earlier yesterday, the Makati team interviewed members of urban poor communities, and they expressed this concern to the delegates.

Later last night, already into 1 a.m. of May 14, while the team was roving Makati communities in a stakeout of reported vote-buying activities in the area, it discovered two groups of people, collected along a street and in front of a house. The people were grouped together in the same way as those cited in Manila.

The first group was found along a street in MACDA, Makati, loosely scattered along the sidewalk. The second group was concentrated in front of a house in Poblacion, Makati, holding with them envelopes and pens.

Wataru Arizumi, from Japan, and also a delegate for the Makati team, likewise found these incidents surprising.

He shared, “In Japan, there is also vote-buying, but not this open.” He expressed his concern that many candidates may not even win without employing such fraud.

Missing names

At 10:30 a.m. today, the foreign observers also witnessed the commotion caused by missing voters’ names at Guadalupe Viejo Elementary School.

The Makati People’s IOM team talked with Evangeline Ibay, 29 years old, who also voted in Viejo in 2004. Evangeline found that her name and that of her husband, Rolando Ibay, were not found in the list. She said that she did not want to go to Comelec anymore to verify if her name and her husband’s were placed at another precinct. She lamented the fact that she may not be able to vote, saying that her vote has been wasted. The same was true for Elvie Anakan, Evangline’s friend, and for her husband Edwin Anakan.

The team also discovered that a name of a dead woman appeared in the list. The friend of the deceased, who refused to be named, narrated that she found the name of her barangay friend, Mercy Obejas, now two years dead, in the list of voters. Her name, on the other hand, was not. She says, “Buti pa yung patay, nakakaboto, yung buhay wala.”

A volunteer for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Carmin Casabon, who also volunteered at the Viejo precinct in 2004, explained to the Makati team that this did not happen in the past elections.

She said that there were no Comelec volunteers or personnel to oversee the elections at Viejo. Carmin was disappointed that voters who did not find their names on the list had to go to Comelec to find the precincts where their names were placed to ensure that they could vote.

Carmin stated that this problem of missing names has been evident since elections started 7 am today. She was also a PPCRV volunteer in 2004, for the Viejo precinct.

Earlier yesterday, the Makati team, joined by the Manila-Quezon City team, met with Bishop Broderick Pabillo at the Santo Nio Parish Center in Manila. The bishop welcomed the foreign delegates and wished them well on their mission.

It can be recalled that Bishop Pabillo has been very vocal against the deployment of military troops in urban areas, alleged to be campaigning against opposition progressive party-list groups while supporting military-supported administration party-lists.

The team is expected to observe four more Makati precincts today at barangays Bangkal, PEMBO, Nuevo, and Rizal. They will also seek an audience with the Makati branch of the Commission on Elections.

The Peoples’ IOM was convened by civic-minded and concerned Filipinos in cooperation with electoral watchdogs such as Kontra Daya, the PPCRV, Teachers’ Hotline of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and Lawyers’ Monitoring Groups. It is composed of twenty-five foreign delegates from Canada, USA, Japan, Myanmar, Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Norway, Belgium, Germany and Scotland.

Other teams are currently roving Pampanga and Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, Quezon Province in the Southern Tagalog region, Tondo and Quezon City in the NCR, Cebu, Bicol, and Lanao del Sur.

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