Observers report from Surigao del Norte

Peoplesiomlogo On May 13th the People's International Observation Mission held a press conference to report their preliminary findings about the election in the Philippines.  Observers traveled to many areas throughout the country.  Matthew Lang and Nancy Eng MacNeill went to the province of Surigao del Norte in northern Mindanao.  This is their team's statement to the press:

The team in Surigao del Norte split into three smaller teams. One stayed in Surigao City, one traveled to Ma-init, and the third to Tubod. There was initial voter enthusiasm, but as the day went on we found serious and systematic flaws throughout the province. Some of these flaws were old, and some were new. We documented almost fifty (50) cases of vote buying. In addition to those cases, we saw long lines outside of the homes of candidates the night before the election. We were informed that these lines were made up of people selling their votes. On Election Day we had one man tell us that there was "not one candidate who did not try to buy my vote."

There were also cases of voter suppression, including a man who signed an affidavit swearing that, under duress, he was forced to mark his finger with indelible ink (as if he had voted), and then was given money not to vote.

There was no voter privacy in any precinct. Not one. There were consistently more than the allotted ten people per room. There were numerous cases of people looking in windows, taking pictures and videos of voters. In every precinct there were cases of people other than voters handling ballots. In several precincts there were political operatives in and around voting rooms, all of whom could see who was voting for whom. The largest group wore green t-shirts with the word "Roma" [for Romarate, a powerful family with candidates running in several local elections] printed on them. In the most brazen cases, men wearing these green t-shirts would control who entered and exited the voting rooms. When we asked some of these operatives who they were, they said they were poll watchers watching over the compound. There were several precincts that reported malfunctioning PCOS machines. The technicians were poorly trained and were not always willing or able to take measures to address the malfunctions. The BEI's were not always familiar with the machines, and one reported being very "intimidated by that machine." Some precincts had trouble transmitting their results to the municipal canvassing center. In addition, we documented many cases in which the seals on the machines had been broken before the voting was finished.

The vote buying, voter intimidation, and lack of privacy, in addition to mechanical failures, means that voters were not able to vote in anonymity, nor be assured that their votes were counted correctly.

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