Violence, vote-buying still rampant in PH polls—US NGO
An international nongovernment organization that monitored the May national elections observed that violence remained a “significant” problem that hounded the country’s electoral process despite efforts to beef up security in areas under watch-lists.
In a statement on its “limited election observation mission to the Philippines,” the Carter Center said most cases of election-related violence were connected to local races not just in the conflict-stricken Mindanao but also in other parts of the country.
“While not all conflict surrounding elections is related to elections, election-related violence remains a significant problem in Mindanao and in many other areas of the country. It is more often linked to local-level competition than to national contests. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) saw comparatively limited violence in the run-up to the election but suffered a spike in violence on and around Election Day,” the statement read.
Citing data from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the center noted that 22 incidents of election-related gunfights, ambushes, and bombings were reported on polling day. It said the “worst incident” was reported in Cavite, where seven people were killed in an ambush in Rosario town.
“Security was scaled up across the country in advance of the elections, with particular concentrations in the areas identified as election watch-lists. The authorities categorized election day as “generally peaceful” across the country, with violent events taking place in less than one percent of precincts nationwide. Still, violence remains a significant problem,” it said.
According to its analysis, Carter Center said 17 election-related killings were recorded in Mindanao from the beginning of April to June 8, 11 of which took place in the ARMM, where “there was a spike in violent events, including assassination attempts on candidates and bombings of a number of polling stations,” despite a relatively quiet campaign period.
“Most, if not all, of the election-related violent incidents in the ARMM appeared to relate to local conflict and competition rather than to national electoral issues. Elsewhere in Mindanao, there were six election-related killings, including the assassination of a candidate for mayor in Lantapan, Bukidnon, shortly before polling day,” the center said.
“Shortly after polling day, a volunteer of the citizen observer organization Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) was killed in Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur, while transporting hardcopy election results. These incidents again appear to relate to local conflict and competition rather than to national electoral issues,” it added.
The center also said it received a number of complaints on vote-buying, particularly but not limited to the local level.
“Carter Center observers reported on two barangays in Cagayan de Oro where they observed residents being called into the barangay hall by identified supporters of a candidate for mayor, signing in on arrival, and leaving with what appeared to be envelopes. Observers also overheard a discussion of the rate paid in other barangays. This candidate subsequently lost,” the statement read.
“In a city in Davao del Norte, where a real and vigorous contest for the mayoralty took place, a member of the winning side alleged that vote-buying by their opponents had taken place on a previously unknown scale, estimating some 15 million pesos were distributed in the two days before the election,” it said.
Noting that vote-buying remains to be a “substantial” problem, the center said there are some indications that it is growing both in local-level competitions and on the national scale. “One potentially positive sign is the common perception that verification of vote-buying is considerably more difficult under the automated election system,” it said.
“For basic ‘retail’ vote-buying in local campaigns, interlocutors claim that in the days before polling day, local candidates, businesses, and supporters distribute substantial amounts of money to local-level leaders within barangays to use at the ground level for vote-buying purposes. For national campaigns, the process is similar, with the funds originating from central campaign sources and channeled through sympathetic governors and mayors. The money is sometimes presented as a gift, and sometimes with the clear implication that reciprocation is expected,” it added.
Carter Center is a non-profit organization founded by former US President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter in 1992. It specializes on human rights, conflict resolution, election monitoring, and public health, among others.
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