Disenfranchisement, vote-buying and intimidation mar Philippines election

May. 14, 2007

MANILA — Whether it was a family from the posh Corinthian Gardens or urban poor residents of Tondo, Manila, the complaints were the same according to election watchdog Kontra Daya.

Many voters were disenfranchised on election day, the watchdog group said based on reports it received from the field. One voter from Corinthian Gardens complained that her name was deactivated from the voters list because she allegedly did not vote in the previous two elections, a claim she disputed. A militant urban poor leader from Tondo was made to wait for four hours to vote after her name was found in a different polling precinct far from her barangay. Another family was instructed by the Comelec to go to a new polling precinct only to find out that the school was empty.

In other areas, reports consisted of shameless vote buying usually by incumbent officials. In reports that came in through Kontra Dayas email alleged that a mayoralty candidate in Valenzuela was giving away groceries in Canumay, Valenzuela at around 10:00pm Sunday. In Zamboanga, reports alleged that a mayoralty candidate was giving away 5 liters of gasoline to tricycle drivers in exchange for votes.

A mayoralty candidate in El Paradiso, Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental was said to be buying votes from P500-700 per person. Supporters of mayoralty candidate in Manila were allegedly giving stickers with P20 enclosed. Supporters of the same mayoralty candidate was giving as much as P1,000 in Barangay 649, Tondo, Manila. In Pasaya City, a barangay capatain supporting a mayoralty candidate was reported giving P200 per person.

It was a picture of chaos. There was confusion in many areas. The elections have not improved. The same problems persist. The world is watching and all they are seeing are Filipinos unable to freely and properly exercise their right to suffrage, said Kontra Daya convenor Fr. Joe Dizon.

Kontra Daya posted reports it got from its 442-0940 hotline to its blog at http://kontradaya.wordpress.com. A running account shows various incidents of vote buying, disenfranchisement and intimidation.

The group was most alarmed by events that transpired in Mindanao which it said can seriously undermine the credibility of the national elections.

The worst election scenarios were again recorded in Mindanao. There were reports of ballot snatching, violence, as well as failure to conduct elections is several provinces. There were also reports of padding of voters list by thousands of spurious names. We in Kontra Daya feel that the events in Mindanao may have a serious bearing on the outcome of the national polls, similar to what happened in 2004, Dizon said
Dizon said that the Comelec had a lot of explaining to do with regards to the disenfranchisement of voters. In our dialogue with Comelec last February, we were promised that the voters list would be out by March but this was never followed. The list came out much later, Dizon said.

Kontra Daya also said that the elections cannot be regarded as generally peaceful because more than 110 were killed in the run up to May 14.

It is improper for the Philippine National Police to say that the polls were peaceful. It is also too premature to say that the death count will not be much higher during the precinct count and the canvassing of votes, Dizon said.

Kontra Daya will release an initial report 48 hours after the May 14 elections.

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