Philippines: Hundreds of disenfranchised voters in Tondo, Manila

May. 14, 2007

MANILA — Every vote counts, but not every one who intended to vote today succeeded to do so.

This was the reality documented by members of the Peoples’ International Observers Mission (Peoples IOM) Manila team who received complaints of missing and deactivated names in voters’ lists today.

From 8:30 am onwards, Stefan Christoff, a journalist from Canada, together with Yan Naing of Myanmar and Bianca Miglioretto of Switzerland observed the conduct of elections in communities in Tondo, particularly in polling precincts within District I, which has the biggest voting population in Tondo.

In a meeting with representatives of the Pastor Parish Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) today, the team members heard of multiple reports of ‘flying voters’, identified by local community members as individuals traveling to vote from other communities in Manila.

According to Christoff, whose team visited Isabelo de los Reyes School and Rosario Almario School, the IOM Manila team surveyed the voting center and viewed multiple ‘sample ballots’ being distributed to voters at the polling center.

“In disregard of national election law, multiple candidate supporters were distributing ‘sample ballots’ within the voting centers, just in front of each entrance to the voting centers,” Christoff noted.

It was clear to the IOM Manila team that the ‘poll watchers’ were vocally attempting to influence voters to cast their ballot for the candidate they supported just in front of the doors of the voting rooms, Christoff added.

Both the IOM & PPCRV commented that representatives of the COMELEC should have been present at the voting location to ensure that these systematic breaches of election law didn’t occur at the voting centers.

Many Tondo voters complained that their names were not present on the local voting lists, although they had voted in the same location in the 2004 elections. As a result of the absent names on the election list, multiple line-ups of voters who weren’t able to cast ballots formed around the polling center. In particular, voters from Isla Puting Bato and Parola said that their names failed to appear on voting lists for their community.

At the Rosario Almario School, supporters of Bayan Muna party list discovered that their names disappeared from the voting list, despite the fact they had voted at the same location in their community in the 2004 elections.

Christoff also reported, “Importantly at the Rosario Almario School members of the IOM encountered an ‘election observer’ from the U.S. Embassy, Paul C O’Friel, who stated the Philippines is clearly a vibrant democracy,’ although when questioned on the political killings in the country O’Friel responded that ‘the Arroyo government has organized a governmental task force on this issue and we are confident that it will be appropriately dealt with.'”

Miglioretto added that her team also documented more than 100 deactivated voters out of 439 voters at the Vicente Lim Elementary School. Several interviewees complained that they were deactivated because they failed to vote in 2004, but even those who voted in 2004 were deactivated.

When asked by the team about the reason for the hundreds of deactivated voters, one of the teachers interviewed by the team said they (teachers) don’t know, the Comelec just gave them the list. Meanwhile, a PPCRV volunteer explained that many of the deactivated voters were residents of Smokey Mountain who were subjected to a community demolition, thus their names were removed from the list.

The IOM Manila Team is scheduled to conduct more interviews in the communities and continue monitoring the canvassing at the Manila City Hall tomorrow. The team is particularly interested in monitoring the continuing presence of military troops in Baseco and Parola as reported by residents who earlier met with them during the pre-election day area briefing.

The Peoples’ IOM was convened by civic-minded and concerned Filipinos in cooperation with electoral watchdogs such as Kontra Daya, the PPCRV, Teachers’ Hotline of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and Lawyers’ Monitoring Groups. It is composed of twenty-five foreign delegates from Canada, USA, Japan, Myanmar, Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Norway, Belgium, Germany and Scotland.

Other teams are currently roving Pampanga and Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, Quezon Province in the Southern Tagalog region, Tondo and Quezon City in the NCR, Cebu, Bicol, and Lanao del Sur. ###

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