The Philippine elections: What went wrong, what can be done

May. 19, 2007

DAVAO CITY — Revel Ian Rakasa, a 24-year-old resident of Talomo Proper, spent nearly three hours looking for his name. He hopped from one voting precinct to another, elbowing his way through the throng of equally exasperated voters, their necks growing stiff looking at the pages of papers stapled on walls and blackboards. All to no avail.

Rakasa finally gave up around lunch time, when he was already feeling the pangs of hunger.

“I have decided not to vote anymore,” he told “I really felt tired searching for my name since this morning. I’m alive but I couldn’t find my name while the dead people were on the list.”

All across the city, in Southern Mindanao, the whole of Mindanao and around the country, the travails of voters like Rakasa became all too familiar tales of disenfranchisement. And observers are convinced that the way elections are being done in the Philippines is undermining democracy itself.

Members of the People’s International Observers Mission (People’s IOM), some of whom were assigned at Compostela Valley province to observe Monday’s elections, pointed out at a press conference days after the polls that the process was complex and leaves a lot of room not just for mistakes but fraud as well.

Alexander Jones, an observer from Scotland, called the process “seriously fraud-sensitive.” Shadi Gilani from the Netherlands said these defects “can enhance cheating very easily.”

Among the flaws, mistakes, defects and shortcomings of Monday’s elections that the observers noticed and saw in its own reporting were the following:

Vote buying. In Doa Pilar Elementary School, a chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) claimed that Tita Castillo, a Comelec assistant and a relative of Nograles, gave out 500 pesos to the BEIs the night before the election. “The Comelec was giving out cash. They even asked us not to complain. Of course we won’t because we are under her,”the BEI chairman, who requested anonymity, told

In Apolinario Mabini Elementary School, Lita, a 41year-old a resident of Bangkal, Davao City, said she received 500 pesos in exchange for voting for the administration’s Team Unity. “I accepted it because I somehow need it. Even then, I doubt if he will win.”

Chaos and disorderly conduct. Too many “unofficial personnel” could enter the canvassing area and could, as Jones pointed out, “allow anyone seeking to disrupt the process a very easy access.”

In Pantukan, the observers noticed instances of vote shaving and other forms of fraud but they couldn’t follow-up on the cases because of the chaos in the rooms.

The absence of poll watchers. This allows fraud to be perpetrated.

The absence of lawyers in the canvassing. These lawyers should be the ones to raise protests if irregularities are reported.

Substandard election materials. The seals on election returns could be easily peeled off. “Seals were easily peeled off without damaging the envelope,” said Jones, one of the observers in Pantukan. There were also instances of indelible ink being washed off easily.

Ballot boxes that do not look alike. Gilani, the observer from the Netherlands, found it “a bit strange” that the shades of the ballot boxes were not similar. “There were different shades,” she said. How would one know that these ballot boxes were real or had not been replaced with tampered ones, she asked.

Missing names.
“I was here as early as 7 in the morning but I was not able to vote because I couldn’t find my name,” complained Bolo Antimo, 81, a retired chief inspector of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), who went to the Piedad Elementary School in Toril to vote.

“We did not experience these cases in the last elections,” said a chairman of a board of election inspectors who requested anonymity. “Now, aside from the problem of voters not being able to vote, names of dead persons still appeared on the list. In my precinct, there are four. Fortunately, the relatives of the dead persons were sincere enough to tell us”

Yolanda Tina, chairman of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) at a precinct at the Jose Bastida Elementary School in Toril, explained that the names were not missing. “They only have trouble in locating their names because the Comelec has rearranged the list of voters and precincts numbers. Apparently, they assumed that their corresponding precinct number will be the same as in the last election,” she said.

comments powered by Disqus