A sense of resignation over the electoral process, fraud, and violence dominated the conduct of the 2007 elections, according to seventeen international delegates who joined the Compact for Peaceful Election’s International Observers Mission as they presented their findings to the diplomatic corps and the Philippine media.
“There is a general feeling among voters that their votes would not be counted, a sentiment provoked by the lack of order in the process, inefficiency of COMELEC, and the reported acts of fraud and violence allegedly committed by politicians, election officials, and armed groups,” Lars Granberg, a Swedish Social Democratic Member of Parliament, said.
Another observer, Lawrence Surendra of India, said that “the Philippine electoral process remains manual, complex, and inefficient, making it susceptible to fraud and violence. The failure to enforce election laws, the weakness of the party system and legal loopholes, subject the electoral process to patronage, unscrupulous campaign financing, lack of transparency, fraud and violence.”
Six teams of observers were deployed to Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bacolod City (Negros Occidental), Cotabato City (Maguindanao), Camarines Sur and Albay, and Metro Manila. The IOM teams stayed a total of ten days in the Philippines.
The teams reported several irregularities. “We have observed vote buying in exchange for goods, services, monetary considerations; vote denial; presence of flying voters; and delaying tactics in the counting of votes to provide opportunity for fraud/filing of disqualification,” Philipp Bueck, Executive Director of the Philippinenburo (Asia House) of Germany, said.
The teams also observed that the voters’ lists released by the COMELEC remain ’uncleansed’ since they still included voters who have already died. “There were also irregularities in the list of candidates and we have noted acts of intimidation. The Bicol Team, for instance, reported harassment from the NPA due to their enforcement of the PTC/ PTW (Permit to Campaign/Permit to Win) Policy. Unauthorized deployment of the police force was also noted,” according to Cecilia Lero, a delegate from the USA.
Jason Bray, an Australian film maker, said that the teams also observed threats of eviction against voters, death threats against supporters of certain party-list groups and gubernatorial candidates, and partisanship by men-in-uniform.
The scenario, however, is not that grim. Granberg said that they were impressed by the active participation of the community in the electoral process and the obvious passion of Filipinos to strengthen their democracy.
Dr. Lesley Clark, a former Australian Labor Party MP, stressed that the electoral process should be done in an environment free from intimidation and harassment.