Monday, May 21, 2007



COMELEC Officials from the Garci Scandal

The COMELEC has resisted citizens’ demands for the investigation, or reassignment to less sensitive positions, of the election officials implicated in the Garci tapes. In fact, election official Rey Sumalipao, who had been implicated in the Garci tapes, was promoted to head COMELEC operations for the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), an area where massive fraud is said to be already taking place.

Security of Election Documents

The COMELEC failed to ensure the security of accountable forms such as Election Returns and Certificates of Canvass. Just before Election Day, ABS-CBN senior correspondent Ricky Carandang reported on what appeared to be “genuine” Election Returns that had all the proper security markings. The documents were said to be for sale. There are persistent reports from the media about “fake” ER’s.

Early on in the campaign, Kontra Daya already warned that the presence of private printers producing ER’s would compromise the security of these election documents. The situation with private printers operated by private employees leaves materials such as papers, plates and/or films vulnerable for illegal printing and the commission of wholesale fraud. In the face of such a warning, and in light of the ensuing theft of the forms, the COMELEC and the National Printing Office cannot claim they have secured said forms. In fact, the theft underscores COMELEC’s (willful or unintended) negligence and dereliction of duty over the security of vital election documents.

Implementation of RA 9369

In the issue of the non-implementation of crucial provisions of R.A. 9369, particularly Section 39 (projection of canvassing), the COMELEC merely pointed out its lack of funds. No other explanation was given and no other effort to fully implement the law was seen.

Partylist Issues

In the case of questionable party list groups, Kontra Daya issued a list of 22 groups it believes were either created by or had links with MalacaƱang and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Subsequently, a memorandum from the Office of the External Affairs (OEA), an office under the direct supervision of the Office of the President, surfaced. It revealed that one of OEA’s officials, who also happens to be a nominee of an administration-backed party list group, had requested funding from the Office of the President. The Supreme Court has also issued a decision for the COMELEC to release all the names of the nominees of party list groups that it had refused to divulge to the public.

Despite these developments, the Commission has not investigated or taken action against any of the party list groups and their nominees who clearly do not qualify as “marginalized groups” in accord with the spirit and the letter of the relevant constitutional provision on party lists. Inaction appears to be the standard response of the COMELEC to all demands for reforms and rectification.

The Role of the Military

The elections in 2007 are far, far worse than that of 2004 with regard to the AFP’s uncalled for and illegitimate involvement. The People’s International Observers Mission (PIOM), Task Force Poll Watch and Kontra Daya’s own election monitoring showed unacceptable patterns of intervention coming from military units and their officials. If in 2004 only some generals were involved in fraud (as revealed by the “Garci tapes”), in 2007 we can say that the entire chain of command was being used and manipulated for the purposes of fraud and violence.

The COMELEC has failed to stop the AFP from engaging in partisan political activities. Two of the most glaring examples are the AFP’s vilification campaign against militant party list groups and the AFP’s all-out support for administration bets and party list groups. The AFP in Metro Manila also attempted to clothe its smear campaign in the guise of a “voters’ education program,” a move immediately unmasked and opposed by various citizens’ groups.

There are persistent reports that high-ranking officials of the military are using the chain of command to force soldiers to vote for administration bets and party list groups. Fact-finding bodies like the PIOM noted that in Nueva Ecija, soldiers coerced people to vote for the Bantay partylist of Gen. Jovito Palparan. Media reports, on the other hand, also say that local absentee voting for soldiers were conducted under questionable conditions. Despite all these issues, the COMELEC has turned a blind eye to the blatant partisanship exhibited by the AFP and its officials.

Initial Conclusions

The 2007 elections are compromised by the COMELEC’s failure to ensure the credibility of the polls. At the least, it failed to dismantle the structural systems and conditions encouraging wholesale fraud. At most, it showed complicity with blatant acts of fraud and other violations of the Election Code. Even the traditional watchdog groups such as Namfrel and PPCRV, that are official citizens’ arms of the COMELEC, have carefully refrained from issuing statements absolving the COMELEC of election negligence, mismanagement or sabotage.

Kontra Daya raises these general statements on the 2007 elections:

1. There are initial indications that the Arroyo administration is engaged in large-scale electoral fraud in an attempt to secure favorable results for its candidates in the national elections (senatorial and party-list).

a. Throughout the campaign period and right up to Election Day, Malacanang led and directed a massive campaign of vote-buying for its candidates.

b. Malacanang has made partisan use of the military to campaign for administration candidates and against opposition groups especially the militant party lists.

c. In the ongoing period of counting and canvassing of votes, efforts to directly manipulate the election results in favor of Malacanang’s candidates and against the administration’s opponents (senatorial candidates and party-list groups) are underway.

2. COMELEC seems directly complicit with the Arroyo administration in perpetrating the ongoing electoral fraud.

a. At its highest level, the COMELEC issued statements, policies, and resolutions that were in accordance with the interests of Malacanang particularly in the Cayetano case, the Robredo disqualification, and the “Malacanang partylist” issue.

b. The COMELEC is suspected of laying the groundwork for electoral fraud which include among others the private printing of election forms, padded voters’ list, selective implementation of laws and the last-minute appointment of BEIs.

c. The COMELEC also aided and abetted fraud through its inaction on numerous blatant violations of election laws from the shameless vote-buying by administration officials to the blatant partisanship of the AFP.

d. The presence and promotion of election officers previously linked to fraud in Mindanao also shows complicity to commit fraud on the part of the COMELEC.

e. COMELEC chairman Abalos in particular makes it a point to rationalize if not cover up election-related anomalies which have come to light. He too is in a state of almost total denial when it comes to election fraud.

Two days after the elections, the Arroyo administration was quick to point out that an administration win at the local levels was a vote for “stability and progress”. COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos also claimed that the elections were a “vindication” for the poll body.

Neither claim is generally accepted. The popular public sentiment right now is that the Arroyo administration is abetting election fraud and engaging in terror tactics in the provinces. Reports of vote-shaving and manipulation, bribery, military harassment and extrajudicial killings all cast serious doubt on the outcome of the elections.

The strong lead shown by the Opposition and militant partylist groups in the COMELEC count do not disprove fraud; rather it reveals a popular preference for them so strong it is overwhelming even the most proven fraud tactics during the canvass. The Opposition and the progressives are winning the count despite the cheating.

The following days will be crucial as the canvassing of votes continues and the possibility of wholesale fraud looms even more. Kontra Daya calls on the people to exercise heightened vigilance and to start sending a strong message to the COMELEC, the AFP and the Arroyo administration that electoral fraud in any form will be politically costly for this country_ the Philippines.

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