AFP says ComVal polls peaceful; foreign observers see flaws

May. 16, 2007

By Philippine Information Agency

DAVAO CITY — The conduct of elections in Compostela Valley Province is relatively peaceful, said 1001st brigade commander Brig. Gen. Carlos Holganza despite the fact that the area has been placed under Comelec control.

Foreign observers, however, noted flaws in the elections in the province.

Holganza said they were able to bring down the level of violence in the province. Earlier reports indicated series of violent incidents in the area prior to the conduct of the May 14 elections.

In a press conference on Wednesday with foreign observers in Davao City. they noted the strong presence of the military in a civilian activity like the elections.

Gill Boehringer from Australia said, “Weve noticed there is serious problem in the electoral process.”

There is widespread knowledge as printed in newspapers on corruption, cheating and violence. And this is worrying, he said.

But Holganza said they were called in to prevent an outbreak of violence because if they dont they will be held accountable for any disruption of peace and order.

He said the military are only allowed 50 meters from polling places and not inside voting centers.

He said they only knew of the foreign observers when they were already in their area or responsibility and said that the foreigners had bias.

They should have looked at whether there is a significant decline of voters who went to the polls, Holganza said.

Shadi Gilani of Netherlands was surprised to see three checkpoints upon entering a barangay, saying it’s as if the president was the one going in that area, which would necessitate such checkpoints.

Holganza admitted the inconvenience of setting up of checkpoints in the area but they wanted to be sure that no armed groups would come in while the election was going on.

Gilani also noticed the discomfort of those handling the elections as they saw members of the board of election inspectors sleeping in tables.

Sandy Jones from Scotland also said that many people entered the canvassing area and some even distracted the canvassers. These should have been prevented, he said.

He said people who went in and out of the hall while the canvassing was going on should have been properly documented.

Boeringer however said that they were here just to observe the conduct of the elections and their observation would incorporated in the overall observation by the other observers in other parts of the country.

While he admitted that it may be presumptuous for them to tell Filipinos how to run the elections, an improvement of the condition of those handling the elections would make elections more efficient.

He also said the country needs to undertake a significant program of reforms. (PIA XI/prixdbanzon).

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