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Philippines election: Blatant cheating, chaos in Lanao del Sur

May. 15, 2007

MARAWI CITY ? Delegates and participants of the People’s International Observers’ Mission (IOM) witnessed wanton cheating, confusion, and near chaos in today’s election in this city.

Vote-buying and coaching of voters inside election precincts were most rampant. IOM delegates saw poll watchers sitting beside voters and dictated candidates’ names to be written on the ballots.

Members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) have practically given up policing the precincts with just anybody entering and interacting with voters.

The IOM documented the following:

* Voters having more than one finger which had been marked with ink that is easily washed with soap and water

* Voters freely admitting to having voted several times. They were paid a minimum of P50 for every vote for municipal and city councilors to as much as P2, 000 per vote for mayoralty candidates.

* Minors as young as 15 years old being allowed to vote.

* Peso bills stapled on sample ballots and campaign leaflets being passed on to the voters through window grills.

* Ball pens in voting booths with stickers with candidates’ names written on them.

* Voters lists not posted outside precincts, and no Secrecy Folders and list of candidates for national and local positions

“Board of Election Inspectors appeared to deliberately ignore these acts, often appearing hopeless to stop the illegal acts,” American Jessica Tulloch, IOM-Lanao del Sur Team spokesperson, said.

Tulloch said members of the Philippine National Police-Regional Special Action Force also dictated on the BEIs when the precincts would be closed. They also moved around carrying assault and sniper rifles, and pistols. They camped inside the schools, appearing to have been posted there for a long time already.

The delegates also interviewed disenfranchised voters, some of whom lined up and looked for their precincts from morning until the precincts closed several minutes past the official time of three o’clock.

The IOM team in this city also suffered harassment from candidates’ supporters. Media members have been repeatedly confronted; one carrying a video camera was even hit by an incensed supporter.

The IOM is an initiative of United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) Bishop Elmer Bolocon, Dr. Delen de la Paz, Assistant Professor of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, and environmentalist Trixie Concepcion. A total of 25 foreign observers from 10 countries, which included the U.S., Australia, Japan, Canada, Norway, Myanmar and South Korea, have arrived to participate in the People’s IOM for the May 2007 elections. (end)

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