LARGELY due to the widespread disenfranchisement of voters, the turnout in yesterday’s elections could be the lowest in six years, a political think tank reported today.
Although the Commission on Elections reported a 75-percent voter turnout, other reports showed a 65-percent turnout, a drop from the previous elections, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) reported. Other precincts in the National Capital Region reported even lower turnouts, about 50 to 60 percent.
â€œIf this is the case, yesterday’s elections could be the lowest in years, with 77 percent turnout in 2004 and 85 percent in 2001,â€ it said. CenPEG’s initial assessment of the May elections was largely based on reports from several poll watch groups and the media.
The reports showed that possibly hundreds of thousands of voters were directly disenfranchised, as names of many legitimate voters were missing in master lists; other names were found in other precincts.
CenPEG said that were also complaints of missing precincts, master lists that were unreadable, delayed opening of polling precincts, and of voting marked by long queues, preventing many voters from casting their ballots.
Another watchdog, Bantay Eleksyon 2007 (Peopleâ€™s Coalition to Monitor the 2007 Elections), also reported that the massive disenfranchisement was in part caused by widespread irregularities in the certified votersâ€™ list (CVL), despite Comelecâ€™s earlier announcement that it had cleansed 1.13 million unqualified persons from the list.
Also, the last-minute precinct rearrangements added confusion to voters, as well as the last-minute reassignments of Board of Election Inspectors.
â€œThe national voters’ list is riddled with names of unqualified persons. Even underage voters are on the list,â€ Ramon Casiple of Bantay Eleksyon said. â€œThere are reports of bonafide voters losing their names in the CVL, with early estimates of at least 100,000 voters being disenfranchised.â€
In La Trinidad, Benguet, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) reported that many voters decided to go home after failing to find their names on the lists. In Isabela and Cainta, Rizal, there were names of dead persons on the list.
Further, Casiple said that there were numerous reports of officials of Comelec, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police engaging in partisan activities. There were even Comelec officials who reportedly tampered with votersâ€™ lists.
CenPEG also had similar findings.
In at least two barangays in Guimba, Nueva Ecija, for instance, CenPEG reported that soldiers told the people not to vote for leftist party-list groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela, and to vote instead for Bantay. Retired Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, said to be accountable for several cases of extrajudicial killings, is Bantayâ€™s first nominee. There were also similar incidents reported in Baguio, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Leyte, Albay, Sorsogon, the two Camarines provinces, Eastern Samar and several provinces in Mindanao.
Bantay Eleksyon further revealed that vote buying was widespread. In Manila, two men were arrested yesterday for allegedly selling their votes in favor of congressional candidate Boots Bacani, wife of outgoing Manila Rep. Rodolfo Bacani. Police, however, failed to arrest Bacaniâ€™s alleged operator.
Similarly, police caught an alleged supporter of Bacoor Mayor Jessie Castillo distributing money and sample ballots on the eve of the elections.
Police in Caloocan City also arrested two supporters of congressional candidate Egay Erice caught distributing rice along a street.
Even House Speaker Jose de Venecia accused his opponent, Mayor Benjamin Lim, of massive vote-buying. Congressional candidate Wahab Akbar of Basilan also made similar allegations against his rival.
Vote-buying occurred even inside the precincts, Bantay Eleksyon reported.
In Bukidnon, Newsbreak reported that sample ballots with fake peso bill bearing the face of former elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano were distributed near polling areas.
Meanwhile, reports show that the countryâ€™s death toll in election-related violence reached 114 yesterday, 59 of which were candidates and 55 were supporters. The Philippine National Police however maintains that only 30 percent of the incidents are election-related.
Bantay Eleksyon said that in some cases, PNP classified cases as not election-related even if the killings were clearly politically motivated. An example of which is the murder case of Kalinga Vice Governor and gubernatorial candidate Rommel Daisen.
The police and military were also ineffective in identified hot spots like Abra, Masbate, and Nueva Ecija, Bantay Elekyson said. Just yesterday, a barangay captain was shot dead in the town of Bucay, Abra. In Masbate, a poll watcher and a brother of a mayoralty candidate in Milagros were killed in separate places.
There were also separate reports of bomb scare, bombing, shooting, abduction, and harassments, and ballot snatching in several places.
Election watchdog Kontra Daya said the most alarming reports came from Mindanao, where padding of voters’ lists, ballot-snatching, violence, and failure to conduct elections were reported.
Overall, Bantay Eleksyon said that the widespread confusion, the significant level of electoral violence, and the â€œincreasing signs of electoral fraudâ€ overshadowed the successful conduct of elections.
Casiple said the failure is attributed to the Comelecâ€™s lack of political will to enforce laws.
â€œIts various immediate attempts at institutional reforms so far have not produced any significant improvement,â€ Bantay commented, â€œThis basically guarantees that its problem of credibility will not be solved nor alleviated by its conduct in these elections.â€
Bantay Eleksyon said that the next days will tell if Comelec can make good on its promise that this elections would be as clean, as honest, and as credible as possible.