4 More Philippines Poll Watchers, Activists Slain; another Missing

May. 19, 2007

Four more persons two of them young poll watchers were killed while another poll watcher went missing in the week of the elections.

Vol. VII, No. 15 May 20-26, 2007

Four more persons two of them young poll watchers were killed while another poll watcher went missing in the week of the elections.

Reports reaching Bulatlat from the Task Force Poll Watch (TFPW) and other sources from the provinces named those killed in two separate incidents on May 15 as Artur Orpilla and Dionisio Battad, in Baggao, Cagayan; Ronilo Ballarbare, 16, and Jun Bagasbas, 20, both in Capalonga, Camarines Norte.

TFPW is an independent poll watchdog that coordinates election monitoring with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Kontra Daya, and other groups.

Orpilla and Battad were peasant activists supporting the Anakpawis (AP, toiling masses) party list while Ballarbare and Bagasbas were poll watchers of the Kabataan Party (or youth party). The reports named soldiers of the Philippine Armys 17th Infantry Battalion and other units as the alleged perpetrators.

Leaders of the Kabataan Party said May 18 that Ballarbare and Bagasbas were bringing food for fellow poll watchers when suspected military men abducted them. The bodies of the two election volunteers were found at the boundary of Barangays (villages) Malaqui and Catabagnangan the following day. A military statement, however, said the two were civilian collateral casualties in an encounter between government troops and New Peoples Army (NPA) guerillas.

A sad day

Reacting to the killings, Raymond Palatino, first nominee of Kabataan, called the incident a sad day for all vigilant youth and citizens.

First the heroic deaths of two teachers in Taysan, Batangas and now the senseless killing of two youths who have vowed to protect the votes of the people, Palatino said.

In a third incident, Noly Gonzales, a poll watcher of AP, was reported missing in Abulog, Cagayan Valley on May 18. Three days earlier, AP sources said, Gonzales was barred by police and armed goons from witnessing the canvassing of votes.

In a fourth incident, a leader of Bayan Muna (BM, people first) in Tubungan, Iloilo survived an assassination attempt perpetrated by suspected military men. The BM leader suffered a bullet wound.

Field reports reaching the TFPW and Bulatlat showed alleged military and police involvement during the elections, citing 38 documented cases in at least 21 provinces. Victims in the said incidents were volunteers and poll watchers of party-list groups notably Anakpawis, Bayan Muna (people first), Gabriela Womens Party (GWP), Kabataan and Suara Bangsamoro and also poll watchers from the PPCRV and local officials of the Commission on Election (Comelec).

Aside from the alleged abduction and killing of poll watchers, the cases involving military and police personnel included illegal arrests, smear campaigns, harassment and disenfranchisement of voters, barring poll watchers from performing their duties and other forms of intimidation.

The same party-list groups revealed at least 156 cases of fraud, harassment and violence affecting their ranks as well as opposition candidates from May 14-16. Massive vote shaving affecting their groups and Genuine Opposition (GO) candidates was also reported in the provinces of Mountain Province, Kalinga, Isabela, Batangas, Cavite, Rizal, Catanduanes, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Misamis Oriental.

Meeting reporters in Quezon City on May 17, Nathanael Santiago, BM secretary general, called the cases of vote-shaving, harassment and fraud as systematic. You will see a systematic removal of party-list sheets in the Vote Secrecy Form, in election returns (ERs), and certificates of canvass, he said.

Satur Ocampo, first nominee of BM, said the reason why they were being targeted by the Arroyo administration was because of their consistent stand against government-sponsored legislations such as the expanded value added tax and the Human Security Act as well as their role in two impeachment complaints against the President.

The election violence, harassments and other cases of fraud favored not only the administrations Team Unity (TU) ticket but also party-lists they either formed or supported financially, the Party-list leaders also said. Bulatlat

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