8 steps to credible RP polls, according to foreign observers
By Carmela Fonbuena
Election observers from the United States, Ireland, and New Zeland on Saturday recommended 8 steps that the Philippine government can take to ensure the credibility of the first nationwide elections in May.
The delegation, sent to Manila by the Washington, DC-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), said it is clear that substantial efforts are being carried out by government. However, they noted that there remains a high degree of anxiety and lack of confidence in the election process among the public.
In a press conference in Makati City, the foreign observers said that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should keep the process transparent. Otherwise, public confidence in the elections will be low.
In an environment with a history of election irregularities, it is essential that the Comelec undertake a major effort to bolster public confidence in the new Automated Election System and the impartiality of its decisions. The perception, whether fair or not, is that the Comelec has not done so, the NDI delegation said in a statement.
When it concerns elections, perceptions can be as important as reality. The Comelec should move expeditiously to clarify and issue instructions on a range of outstanding issues, the statement added.
The delegation specifically recommended that the Comelec undertake and ensure the following:
1. Election preparation.
The Comelec is encouraged to hold a series of dialogues with representatives of presidential candidates to clarify their various concerns. The General Instructions that will govern the conduct of the polls should be released early.
2. Random manual audit.
A random manual audit should be done before, not after, the official proclamation of results. It should be transparent to allow all stakeholders to monitor it.
3. Security services.
Concerned with the election violence in Maguindanao in November 2009, the group cited the crucial role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to support the integrity of the electoral process and the sanctity of the ballot.
4. Non-partisan election monitoring.
Reconsider the application for accreditation of the National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (or Namfrel) as citizen’s arm.
5. Voter and civic education.
The government should mobilize all its resources to educate the public about the new election system.
6. Safety of journalists.
The Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police should hold dialogues with the media to discuss concrete steps that will secure them against poll violence.
7. Access to campaign finance information.
The Comelec should make available on the Internet information on campaign financing.
8. Contingency planning.
The Comelec should discuss with the political parties and stake holders its contingency plan in case the automated election system breaks down.
The delegation visited the Philippines from March 6 to 13 to review the political environment and the framework for the upcoming elections. They consulted 30 organizations, including the Comelec, various political parties, and non-government organizations.
The delegation included former US congressman Sam Gejdenson, former Ireland minister of justice Nora Owen, former New Zealand National Party president Sue Wood, Asia Society executive vice president Jamie Metzl, and NDI deputy regional director for Asia Thomas Barry. (Newsbreak)