Manila, 10 May 2004
From a report released by Asia Pulse
Nothing has changed much in the electoral process since the last national elections in 1998. The voters' most common complaint is the missing names in the voters' list despite revalidation months and weeks before the this year's election.
Another subject of complaint is the failure of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to produce the much-needed computerized ID which should have been one of the end-results of the revalidation.
Because of these frustrations, voters who braved the sweltering heat in small and crowded polling precincts in different schools in Metro Manila gave up too soon and headed for the comfort of their homes. Those determined to exercise their voting rights held on and argued their case with poll officials but the extent of their success is yet to be known. Many of them left afterwards in sheer disgust, disappointment and exhaustion.
This sad drama happened in almost every school, including Arellano High School along Taft Ave., Albert Elementary School and Ramon Magsaysay in Manila and North Bay Boulevard Elementary School in Navotas. In some cases, radio reports over DZRH confirmed that entire families' names were excluded from the voters master list although they have papers of revalidation.
On the other hand, the names of some people who have already died since the last election were still in the Comelec-revalidated and certified valid list of voters, raising speculations that unscrupulous parties could have voted using the names of the dead. In North Bay Boulevard Elementary School of Navotas, electrical power went off by 8:30 a.m., leaving the school in darkness. The dark atmosphere disrupted voting in the polls.
The lights were still out well past nine a.m. until Elpi Cuna of the Manila Electric Co. public relations responded to the frantic call of concerned Navotas residents through the radio airwaves.
Arellano High also reported a 30-minute brownout. Fortunately, power was restored before voting started at 7 a.m.
From reports of the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections
Chaos and confusion marred the elections. Voters complained of names missing from voters' lists and of stolen ballot boxes. In some polling centers, especially in remote areas, election materials were delivered late or not at all.
The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, an election watchdog, blamed the Commission on Elections for the problems. "The first half of the day is one of difficulty and considerable amount of confusion," said Guillermo Luz, the group's secretary general. "Someone should be prosecuted for this," Luz added, referring to the disfranchisement of voters because of the commission's apparently faulty listing system.
The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections said it would announce results of its "quick count" in a week.
Votes are counted by hand, by teachers who will keep counting well into the night on Monday. Each ballot is scrutinized and each entry is read out loud, while another person tallies the votes. Early this year, the Supreme Court stopped the computerization of the elections after it discovered that the bidding for the multimillion-dollar project had violated certain laws. The court also found that the computers the government had bought for the counting did not pass technical tests.
Fraud and violence have frequently marred Philippine voting. In the past, ballot boxes disappeared after suspicious blackouts. The Commission on Elections expected this to happen again, so it ordered teachers and officials at polling centers to bring flashlights.
Also in past elections, politicians bribed teachers to influence their count. The political parties deployed tens of thousands of volunteers to watch the counting in this election.
The National Citizens Movement for Free Elections had nearly 400,000 volunteers nationwide monitoring the process. Some 230,000 soldiers and police officers were also deployed. Teams from different countries, including the United States, were also on hand to monitor the elections.
As of late Monday afternoon, at least 20 people, most of them campaign workers, were killed in separate attacks in Manila and in the southern and central Philippines, according to police, military and election watchdogs officials. The casualties Monday brought the election-related death toll since December to more than 100.
In Mindanao, three marines were injured by a land mine while escorting election officials. In another province, marines took over the polling centers in 12 towns because of the threat of violence.
A grenade exploded early Monday morning inside the office of a town treasurer in the central Philippines, destroying election materials. In another town, a fire destroyed a school building where voting was supposed to take place.