Volunteers for Clean Elections (VforCE)
PRESS STATEMENT ON THE MAGUINDANAO ELECTIONS
June 21, 2007
We believe there is enough evidence to show no elections were held or that there was a failure of elections in many, if not all, areas of Maguindanao.
During the supposed May 14 elections in Maguindanao, teachers who served as members of the Board of Election Inspectors have claimed they filled up ballots in favor of administration candidates. NAMFREL was not given its copy of election returns. And PPCRV and LENTE volunteers were refused access to many polling areas and canvassing centers.
The Comelec cannot and should not continue insisting that teacher-whistleblowers step forward to personally testify on election irregularities in the province; one has already been killed, two have disappeared, and many are in hiding. Without a climate of trust and security, which the Comelec should first seek to create, witnesses cannot reasonably be expected to expose themselves to great risks. If the Comelec seeks stronger evidence of election irregularities, it should simply open up the ballot boxes as suggested by the teachers themselves.
More significantly, crucial documents to show elections did take place in the province have mysteriously gone missing for over a month now. It has not helped that Team Unity has inexplicably failed to produce its own copy of election returns to support its claim of a 12-0 sweep in the senatorial contest. Even if the missing documents eventually show up, they will be highly suspect and therefore should not be considered at all, for doing so could likewise result in a disenfranchisement of Maguindanaoans.
We, however, reiterate that for any special elections in Maguindanao to be meaningful, truthful and free, the Comelec, the PNP/AFP and the government, as the case may be, must take the following steps:
cancel all gun permits and disarm paramilitary units in the province
deploy the Philippine Marines to ensure peace and order, including the safety of voters, election officers, and watchers
replace local Comelec officials with trusted Comelec personnel from other areas
count ballots in safe and secure areas
ensure the effective participation of watchdog groups and full media coverage, and
undertake voters education activities before the elections.
If special elections cannot be conducted under these circumstances, then no such special elections should be held anymore. In such a situation, we believe that it will be reasonable and acceptable to disregard the votes for senators in Maguindanao. For while it appears that local officials have been voted into office and have in fact already been proclaimed (after all, it takes only one vote for an unopposed candidate to win), the votes for the senatorial positions remain mysteriously unaccounted for. With over a month now since elections have been held, even if they should show up, they should be deemed spurious and should therefore disregarded.
(From Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO)2/F CCS, SDC, Ateneo de Manila UniversityLoyola Heights, Quezon City, PhilippinesTel. (632) 426.5938, 426.6001 local 4624/4625www.codengo.org)