Philippines: Presence of soldiers, armed men in canvassing stuns foreigners

May. 17, 2007

Foreign visitors from the Peoples International Observers Mission (Peoples IOM) witnessed how soldiers and unidentified armed men roamed freely around the site where the election canvassing was taking place in the town of Guimba in Nueva Ecija, Philippines.

Foreign observers monitored the presence of at least nine soldiers from the 71st Infantry Battalion during the canvassing at the Guimba municipal hall at around 9:30 a.m. today, Rev. Larry Emery of the Peoples IOM said.

One or two soldiers continually went in and out of the canvassing hall, Emery added. An Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) from the Light Armored Division from the nearby municipality of Gapan, Nueva Ecija was stationed outside the Guimba municipal hall since May 15.

The IOM team previously reported that military troops deployed in Guimba were pressuring local residents to stop supporting progressive party list organizations Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela, and to vote for Bantay party list instead. Retired Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is being criticized for abetting human rights violations against activists in the Central Luzon region, is Bantay’s first nominee.

Nueva Ecija has delivered a total of 60,959 votes to the three progressive partylists Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela in 2004.

In Guimba, the team reported that the quick count of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) as of 9:30 a.m. showed Bantay party list leading with 817 votes, followed by Bayan Muna with 459, Anakpawis with 76, and Gabriela with 154 votes.

When asked by the foreign observers, the soldiers said that they were there on verbal orders of a Comelec election officer whom they did not identify.

Guimba, which is part of the first legislative district of Nueva Ecija, is among the larger municipalities with 56,608 registered voters in 2007.

Yesterday, the IOM team also monitored the presence of three armed men in ski masks during the ballot canvassing in Barangay Dos of the nearby municipality of Quezon, also in the first legislative district. The armed men created fear among people when they came at around 4 p.m. yesterday, when ballots were being counted, and stayed for five minutes, Emery said. ###

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