Foreign poll observers: We felt safer in Afghanistan

This is really so pathetic. It is a shame. This is where the major cheating will be made. There is no democracy in our country… it is “all-talk” and nothing sincere. The ARMM should have a separate voting where all eyes will be on them and quadruple the number of watchers and security.

Posted May 17, 2007 03:11:00(Mla Time)


Cynthia Balana
MANILA, Philippines — Despite the “fiesta” atmosphere during the May 14 elections, foreign observers who monitored the voting in Mindanao said Wednesday they worried constantly about possible violence and felt safer in Afghanistan.

They also reported incidents of intimidation, blatant vote-buying, candidates’ poll watchers dictating names to voters as they filled out their ballots and lack of voter respect for election institutions in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

In a statement, the team of 21 foreign observers from the Asian Network for Free Elections (Anfrel) said that while the government claimed the balloting was generally peaceful, it was not so in the ARMM.

It said the ARMM polling was “manipulated by outsiders” and that the culture of impunity for election and political crime may fuel calls for an alternative government that could provide justice for the people.

“The situation is not so comfortable especially if you have the military everywhere and also weapons everywhere,” said Somsri Hananontasuk, Anfrel director from Thailand.

Somsri, who said she saw confrontations between rival candidates and two bomb blasts, had also observed polls in 2004 and 2005 in Afghanistan.

She said she felt safer in Afghanistan than last Monday.

“Of course, we were also afraid of the underground Taliban … but at least we don’t have shooting… the threat from two sides when you go anywhere and the guns that sometimes are poised,” she added.

Hot in Mindanao

The observers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Thailand spent eight days in six ARMM provinces and visited more than 500 precincts.

Mohamad Yunus Lebai Ali, director of the National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI) in Malaysia, said it was “a hot situation” in Mindanao, particularly in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu.

“We are not passing judgment. We came here more as a fact-finding mission to learn from each other and observe. We have universal criteria of elections,” he stressed, including whether the exercise was peaceful, free and fair.

Ali said the observers agreed that the atmosphere was not conducive to elections in the visited ARMM provinces.

No secrecy in voting

“I did not feel physically safe, what more the voters?” he said.

“It’s not to say the election was fair. We saw how protection took place, many cases of vote manipulation. It’s very hard to say there was no cheating up to election day,” he said.

Ali said that being free meant the voting must be done confidentially, which was not the case in the precincts the observers visited.

“We observed a lot of coaching inside precincts where people were being commanded to write the names and I myself observed flying voters in truck loads with 20-25 of them coming to precincts,” he stressed.

Women participation

Somsri noted the deployment of military personnel outside the voting centers in schools.

But she also noted some positive things, such as more women participation in all aspects of the electoral processes, the festive mood in most polling precincts despite the long lines of voters and the vigilance of civil society.

“It is a fiesta of democracy and I take it as celebration of democracy,” she said.

Amim Shah Bin Iskandor of Malaysia said he talked to some people who even tried to sell their votes, something he had never experienced in his country.

“To me, it is very cheap, just P20. This incident happened one day before the election. They’re not afraid and they showed money, they got it,” Iskandor said.

The observers blamed the “clan system” for the continuing political dynasties in the Philippines and said this was not good for the Philippines and other Asian countries.

Use symbols for candidates

Rashid Rashad of Sri Lanka’s People’s Action for Fair and Free Elections compared the Philippines’ antiquated voting process with the more advanced card system used in Sri Lanka’s elections.

“The people are not educated, the ballots are very big. Why don’t you introduce a card system where people just have to choose symbols (for candidates) to make it more simple for voters? The long paper is discouraging voters,” she said.

Proposals for reform

The team proposed several electoral reforms:

• Election offenses must be addressed swiftly.

• The law on campaign finance should be enforced. Overspending must be discouraged, and the source of funding should be clear.

• Cut down the cost of campaigning and enhance accountability and representation by having senators elected by region rather than nationwide.

• The anti-dynasty provision of the Constitution should be implemented to limit the number of politicians from the same family or political clan.

• The Commission on Elections must be more professional and those who misuse their power should be disqualified.

• The local election should be separated from the national to make the process simpler and more transparent.

• The law on modernization should be implemented in coming elections. With reports from Cathy Yamsuan and Associated Press

Why run for a political position?

These people running for political positions from the lowest levels to the highest levels really act desperate.

They would spend millions upon millions of pesos to “market” or “advertise” themselves and they claim that they are using their own money to pay for these political ads. If they can spend tens of millions of pesos, what’s in it for them? What is their “return on investment” from spending all these millions? Do they plan to make much much more than they have “invested”? How can you make millions upon millions if the salary of these political figures are not in the millions upon millions of pesos?

If for example Pichay would spend Php100 million for his political campaigning, how does he plan to get it all back? Is being a Senator, Congressman, Governor, Mayor etc that lucrative that many families have made it their “family business”.

Some mayors even act like they have their own “Kingdom” wherein they are above the law.

Is this “pork barrel” the ultimate prize in running? Of course not, that is just the appetizer! There is much more to gain!

Well, just seems so funny that these guys would do “whatever it takes” to win… there is  so much money is at stake for them!

They are doing it for themselves and not for the people. That is why the Philippines is getting poorer and poorer while our politicians are getting wealthier and wealthier.

Isn’t it supposed to be that when you join politics, you become poorer because you are sacrificing your lucrative carreer to be of service to the people? But apparently, the politicians become wealthier while being in politics.

The Philippines is this way because we allow it to be. We make our politicians very wealthy while we become very poor.

I agree with Manny Pacquiao

I agree with Manny Pacquiao when he openly-stated that nothing positively has happened in General Santos during the many decades reign of the Antonino family. Nothing positive for General Santos but most likely the family business of politics of the Antonino family was positive. Obviously, the Antonino family is another Political Dynasty that needs to be broken.

One thing I do not agree with is that it will be Manny Pacquiao who will replace Antonino. It would have been better if a lawyer would run…but as we all know, this is a popularity contest.

If ever Manny Pacquiao would win (which is already almost sure), I just hope that he will not create a Pacquiao Political Dynasty in the area.

Good luck to you Mr. Manny Pacquiao, … never forget your roots and do not make politics corrupt your mind, heart and body.

Julia Campbell: May you rest in peace

Do not bite the hand that feeds you. Moreso, do not kill the hand that feeds you.

Julia Campbell was a God-send in the eyes of the people who knew her. It is almost impossible to fathom that someone could kill an angel to the community.

Julia Campbell went out of her way to help the poor, helpless, and un-educated. She was in the Philippines for the Filipino people.

How can anyone have murdered her? What was the motive? Is it simply a robbery?

Did poverty drive someone to commit murder? Did poverty turn a human being into a devil to kill an angel?

Whatever it is—this is the real situation in the Philippines, there are many out there who suffer while our politicians ride in their fancy cars and bully their way through traffic as if there is no tomorrow while laughing their way to the bank.

The political dynasties that have become “family businesses” should be stopped right now.

Julia Campbell is a hero and her death should not go unpunished.

15 million Filipinos live on $1.00 a day

How can these politicians say they are doing a good job?

How can these politicians drive their very nice and expensive cars?

How can these politician travel first-class?

How can these politicians spend like there is no tomorrow?

When there are 15 million starving people in the Philippines …. it is quite sad that the true colors of these politicians are clearly seen. They really do not care about the sufferings of the Filipino people… all they care about is how to get voted—whatever it takes.

Once securely back in their nice political seats, they will forget all those that voted for them.

It is not surprising why the Philippines is going in a downward spiral upto the point of no return.

Nice to know….

It is nice to know that there are courageous people out there who are fighting for the Filipino people. We salute you.

“Pacquiao, Arroyos, 8 other bets ‘blacklisted’
By Maila Ager
Last updated 01:31pm (Mla time) 04/17/2007

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s sons and her brother-in-law and world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao are among the 12 candidates who have been blacklisted by the Black and White Movement, the group said in a statement.

The statement was released on Tuesday at the launch of its “black list-white list” campaign at the Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.

The group said the campaign sought the election of at least 79 men and women of “moral courage, who will exact accountability from the President for the unabated corruption, extrajudicial killings, and the alleged cheating in 2004.

The group will campaign for and against those on its white and black lists.

Aside from Congressman Juan Miguel “Mikey,” Diosdado “Dato” Macapagal-Arroyo, Congressman Ignacio Arroyo, the President’s brother-in-law, and Pacquiao, those who have been blacklisted included former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, Speaker Jose de Venecia, Congressmen Luis Villafuerte, Matias Defensor, Renato Unico, Raul Gonzalez Jr., Erwin Genuino, the son of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Chairman Ephraim Genuino, and incumbent Cagayan de Oro Vice Mayor Michelle Tagarda-Spiers.

The young Genuino is running for congressman against Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay’s daughter, Abigail, in the second district of the city while Spiers is running against former Cagayan de Oro Vice Mayor Tony Soriano.

The young Binay, Soriano, incumbent South Cotabato Representative Darlene Antonino-Custodio, former congressman Apolinario Lozada, former Dagupan mayor Benjamin Lim, Danton Remoto, Liwayway Vinzons-Chato, Dr. Joey Montemayor, incumbent San Fernando Mayor Sabas Mabulo, Cholo Roco, Benjie Gengcos, and Malou Acosta have been placed on the white list.

The Black and White Movement also listed 12 partylist groups on the black list and 11 on the white list. They have not been identified as of posting time.

The group said it would actively campaign for and against those on the
lists through the Internet and its network of grassroots organizations.”