International observers witness blatant cheating, chaos in Lanao Sur

May. 16, 2007

MARAWI CITY Delegates and participants of the Peoples International Observers Mission (IOM) witnessed wanton cheating, confusion, and near chaos in todays election in this city.

Vote-buying and coaching of voters inside election precincts were most rampant with the poll watchers sitting beside voters dictating the names to be written on the ballots.

Board of election inspectors have practically given up policing the precincts with just anybody entering and interacting with voters.

The IOM saw and interviewed voters who had multiple fingers marked with ink which is easily erased with soap and water. Voters also freely admitted having voted several times and were paid a minimum of fifty pesos for municipal and city councilors to as much as two thousand pesos for mayoralty candidates. Minors as young as 15 to 16 years old were also allowed to vote.
Peso bills were stapled on sample ballots or campaign leaflets and were passed on to the voters through window grills. Ball pens in voting booths also sported stickers with candidates names written on them. BEIs appeared to deliberately ignore these acts, often appearing hopeless to stop the illegal acts.
Missing in the precincts the IOM visited were voters lists posted outside the classrooms, Secrecy Folders and the list of candidates in national and local positions.
Members of the Philippine National Police-Regional Special Action Force also dictated on the BEIs on the precincts closing time. They also touted assault and snipers rifles and pistols freely. 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 oclock.
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 delegates are set to visit the vote counting areas tonight to observe further the conduct of the elections in the area.
They also said the videos and still photographs they were able to take will be later presented in Manila at the conclusion of the mission. #

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