New machines, same old machinery

Surigao_del_norte Presbyterians Matt Lang and Nancy Eng MacNeill were among the nine election observers from the People's International Observers' Mission (PIOM) who went to Surigao del Norte in Mindanao. The group divided into three smaller teams with one going to Dapa, one to Mainit, and one to Tubod. Matt observed that, "There were serious, systematic flaws throughout Surigao del Norte.  Vote buying, voter intimidation, a lack of secrecy at the polls and machine malfunctions were just some of the irregularities we observed."

The team made a report to PIOM.
Download Report from PIOM Surigao del Norte. Here are some excerpts from the report:

"We want to express our gratefulness to the community members who opened their doors and answered our endless questions. We also thank the Filipino people for sharing with us their stories, we interviewed hundreds of voters who opened up and shared their very personal details with us."

"Based on our observations, we declare that the May 2010 election process was not credible due to fear, harassment, technical shortcomings, vote buying, a lack of secrecy at the polls and psychological violence. While the Automated Election System appeared to be a good start, the continued existence of an elitist political order based on wealth, influence and brute force has prevented the true voice of the people from being heard."

The report cites:

  1. Vote Buying and Voter Disenfranchisement
  2. Lack of Privacy and Voter Secrecy
  3. Voter Intimidation
  4. Campaigning Inside the Polling Compound
  5. Precinct Organization
  6. Technical Problems

The report concludes:

"We honor the spirit of the Filipino voters who waited standing in long lines: under the heavy rain, the sun, with no breakfast neither lunch, to cast their ballots in spite of the oppression and all the irregularities. COMELEC betrayed the public trust by being indifferent to predicted problems even though they had the power, time and tools to prevent them. The political dynasties that constitute most of the candidates and control the parties ensured that the elections would follow the same formula of name recognition and vote buying.

"Pervasive oppression and corruption built within the election system is still present despite the Automated Election System. Vote buying, privacy concerns, technical difficulties and precinct organization contributed to the violation of voter rights and the disenfranchisement of their free will. Even without any evidence of physical violence or intimidation, there was a physiological fear embedded in the community."

The team offers the following recommendations:

  • Conduct an independent and transparent electoral audit to validate the results of the May 2010 elections
  • Cease proclamations of election results until the random manual audit has been fully conducted
  • Guarantee secrecy for voters
  • Address, systematically and comprehensively, voter education and the training of all personnel involved in elections
  • Address urgently the failure of safeguards put in place by COMELEC to ensure the safety of voters
  • Investigate vote buying and disenfranchisement of voters by political parties
  • Create an independent body to evaluate any and all vulnerabilities in the election system
  • Require COMELEC to work with local CSO's to ensure transparency

Report from PIOM Surigao del Norte

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