MANILA — As the canvassing of party-list votes start today, the Peoples International Observers Mission (IOM) Manila team raised concerns that the hundreds of deactivated voters in the urban poor communities of Tondo are a lot of votes lost by the progressive party-list groups.
“If indeed there is vibrant democracy under the Arroyo administration, we believe that there should be no voter disenfranchisement and that progressive party-lists and people’s organizations should be allowed to flourish rather than harassed by the military and cheated in the elections,” Mr. Stefann Christoff, a Canadian journalist and IOM delegate, noted.
Members of the IOM Manila team visited communities in Tondo on May 15 in response to reports of massive voter disenfranchisement during election day. According to Christoff, “We took note of the multiple voting irregularities and voter disenfranchisement experienced during the election day. A lot of voters supporting progressive party-lists, specifically Bayan Muna and Gabriela, reported serious problems with voting lists. We heard the sentiments of community members who felt they were excluded them from the democratic process as their names disappeared from the official voting list. We have also seen the conditions of extreme poverty within the districts and interviewed residents who hoped to participate in the electoral process to elect a new government that would tend to the conditions of extreme poverty,”
In Brgy Isla Puting Bato, the team interviewed residents who reported that over 225 registered voters in the area, from Precinct 51S & 51N were excluded from voting lists. In Katuparan Homes Vitas, residents expressed their anger on the absence of COMELEC representatives at the local voting centers as they couldn’t resolve the fact that names of multiple community members didn’t appear on the local voting lists.
Ms Bianca Miglioretto of Switzerland, noting information on attacks against specific party-list groups during the team’s pre-election day visit in the communities, comments, “The elections has to be seen in the context of the militarization of barangays Smokey Mountain II and Vitas. Militarization clearly violated the right to campaign for progressive parties that are the clear targets of repression by the AFP. The soldiers were conducting open campaigns against the progressive parties, even showing films that labeled them as front organizations of the CPP/NPA. The fact that the AFP uses propaganda films proves that these are not isolated acts of individual commanders but a planned strategy of the AFP as such and this constitutes a clear violation of the electoral campaign code.”
“We support the people’s demand for the immediate withdrawal of all military forces the communities of Smokey Mountain II, Vitas, Parola and Baseco, including those in civilian clothes. And we join the people in saying no to return of AFP troops after the elections,” Ms Miglioretto stated. #
Excerpts from preliminary team report re military presence in the communities.
We visited three urban poor communities in Tondo day before the elections and we have heard about military presence in these communities in the months before the elections.
We visited Smokey Mountain II, Parola and Baseco.
In all three communities, the people we interviewed said that the military entered into their communities in November 2006 and stayed there until a few days before the elections. They patrolled the communities with arms as they interrogated residents on what organizations existed in the community and who were the leaders and organizers of the progressive partylist groups Anakpawis, GABRIELA, Kabataan, Suara Bangsa Moro and Bayan Muna. Most of the people we talked to said they did not know the leaders and organizers. What they know is that these organizations existed to help them when they face problems such as demolition in the community.
In Baseco the men we talked to said that the military organized film showing in which Bayan Muna, GABRIELA, Anakpawis, Kabataan and Suara Bangsa Moro were labeled as fronts organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) and that the residents should not vote for them.
In Parola there was an incident as members of the community told us: Drunk soldiers interfered into a domestic fight, they injured one man and shot around. Luckily no one was hit but it scared people. The soldiers said they would shoulder the costs for the
hospitalization of the injured man on the condition that he would not file charges against the soldiers.
We also learned that in Smokey Mountain II and Parola, the soldiers went from
house to house claiming that they were conducting a census. They patrolled the
communities in full gear uniforms and their firearms.
After the soldiers officially left on May 9, some of them still stayed in
the house of the mayor in Parola. But they are in civilian clothes now.