Comelec praises soldiers, blames voters for missing names

May. 23, 2007

By Grace S. Uddin
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — While members of the Philippine military have been accused of having had a hand in the alleged election fraud in some parts of Mindanao, its conduct in the Davao Region, particularly the so-called “elections hot spots,” has received positive feedback from election officials.

Although there were reports of soldiers going near polling precincts or campaigning against certain partylist groups, the Comelec says that, generally, the soldiers have behaved well and that, unlike in other areas, the conduct of last week’s elections in the region has been peaceful.

The presence of soldiers during the election in New Bataan, Compostela Valley province, as well as in Monkayo and other areas in Davao del Norte, was part of the military’s “internal security operations,” according to Melcar Unso, spokesman for the Comelec in Southern Mindanao.

In Monkayo particularly, more than 600 police officers and soldiers were deployed because of the threats posed by armed and private groups, such as the communist New People’s Army, said Sr. Supt. Nestor Quinsay of the Philippine National Police in the region.

“The presence of the military in New Bataan was only for ‘area security’ and was just very normal,” Unso said, pointing out that there had been no major untoward incident during the elections in the region.

Some New Bataan residents, however, had earlier complained that soldiers entered the town hall, where the canvassing was being held, on election day. Earlier reports from the People’s International Observers Mission whose members went to Pantukan and New Bataan said that soldiers on board armored carriers and trucks were stationed in the precincts at the Cabinuangan Elementary School.

Aside from this, the group also reported several harassments and intimidations of members of progressive partylist groups as well as establishing checkpoints along highways in Mabini, Nabunturan and Montevista municipalities.

Unso defended the military’s actions. “We have to emphasize that there are no soldiers in the polling places. They are prevented from going there. As I’ve said they are just in surrounding places but not in the polling places,” he said.

Unso added: “Just because it is election they easily notice the military’s presence but when there is no election, they don’t.”

As for the conduct of the some soldiers campaigning groups like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela , Unso said that could be a personal stand — not an official one — by the soldiers.

“The military is supposed to be nonpolitical but a person has two entities — as a government employee and as a private one. If a soldier is exercising his private beliefs, then we cannot hinder him,” he explained.

Unso said that aside from being peaceful and orderly, the election in the region was “honest and clean.” He said the Comelec did not receive any reports on fraud, cheating or ballot snatching in the whole region.

The election watchdog People’s Net, however, said otherwise. The group said it received calls from people complaining of vote buying, campaigning in poll precincts and other violations of the Omnibus Election code, not to include the numerous reports of missing names and “resurrected names,” as what the group calls the names of the dead that were still in the voter’s list.

On the missing names, Unso had this to say: “What happens is that when people do not see their names right away, they immediately complain.” He said voters were not diligent enough to look for their names.

Frankie del Rosario, People’s Net’s coordinator, reacted to Unso’s statement blaming the voters. “That is what we always hear from them. They wash their hands and blame others to justify their negligence,” he said. (Grace S. Uddin/

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