election-related violence

Pinoys believe observers to deter poll violence

Pinoys believe observers to deter poll violence
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Eight out of 10 Filipinos believe that the presence of independent observers in the May 10 polls would help deter or reduce election violence, a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

The SWS special pre-election survey, conducted from Feb. 24 to 28, found 80 percent of registered voters saying they were confident that independent observers in the upcoming elections would help “a lot/some” to deter or reduce election-related violence.

Sixteen percent said their presence would help deter or reduce election-related violence “a little” and four percent said “none at all.”

The expectation that independent observers would help “a lot/some” in deterring election-related violence is higher among those previously aware of them (88 percent) than those who just heard about them (72 percent).

It is also slightly higher in balance Luzon (83 percent), than in Mindanao (79 percent), Metro Manila (77 percent) and the Visayas (75 percent).

The survey likewise found nearly five in 10 Filipinos (47 percent) saying they are aware of independent election observers and that three of four (74 percent) believe their presence adds confidence that the elections would be clean and honest.

Forty-seven percent are previously aware that there will be independent election observers in the May 10 elections, while a slightly bigger 53 percent have only heard about this.

About three in five (59 percent) in Metro Manila are aware that there will be independent observers in the May 10 polls, the highest across all four areas. It is 50 percent in the Visayas, 47 percent in Mindanao, and 42 percent in balance Luzon.

The SWS said awareness of election observers in the May 10 elections is higher among the middle to upper classes and the more educated.

By class, 56 percent of classes ABC are aware that there will be independent observers, higher compared to 48 percent in class D and 41 percent in class E.

By education, 64 percent of college graduates are aware that there will be independent observers, much higher than among high school graduates (48 percent), elementary graduates (41 percent) and non-elementary graduates (38 percent).

The survey likewise revealed that three out of four (74 percent) registered voters say the presence of independent observers will “greatly add/somewhat” add to their confidence that the elections will be clean and honest.

Twenty percent say their presence adds only “a little confidence” and six percent say it “will not add confidence.”

The expectation that independent observers will add to voters’ confidence in clean and honest elections is higher among those previously aware that there will be independent observers in the elections (85 percent) than those who just heard about it (66 percent).

Those who say independent observers will add to voters’ confidence that the May 2010 elections would be clean and honest is high across all areas: 76 percent in balance Luzon, 75 percent in Mindanao, 74 percent in Metro Manila, and 71 percent in the Visayas.

By education, the view that the presence of independent observers will add to voters’ confidence that the elections would be clean and honest is slightly higher among those with more education.

It is 81 percent among college graduates, 74 percent among high school graduates, 74 percent among elementary graduates, and 71 percent among non-elementary graduates.

67 percent prefer local observers

The survey, meanwhile, revealed that 67 percent of Filipinos prefer local observers rather than foreign observers.

One-fourth (24 percent) prefer that they be both Filipino and foreign, and 11 percent prefer that they be foreign.

Seventy-one percent in the Visayas prefer Filipino observers for the May 10 elections, the highest across all areas. Preference for Filipino observers is 66 percent in balance Luzon, 62 percent in Metro Manila, and 57 percent in Mindanao.

Eighteen percent in Mindanao prefer foreign independent observers in the elections, higher compared to about a tenth in the Visayas (10 percent), Metro Manila (eight percent) and balance Luzon (eight percent) who also prefer foreign observers.

The survey used face-to-face interviews of 2,100 registered voters, divided into random samples of 300 in Metro Manila and 600 each in balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

It has sampling error margins of plus or minus 2.2 percent for national percentages, plus or minus six percent for Metro Manila, and plus or minus four percent for balance Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

Comelec control eyed in Maguindanao, 6 other areas

Comelec control eyed in Maguindanao, 6 other areas
By Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo said yesterday that seven areas across the country will be placed under the agency’s control due to escalating violence in these places.

In an interview, Melo identified these places as Abra, Nueva Ecija and Bacoor and some towns in Masbate, Davao, Maguindanao and Zamboanga.

The Comelec has already drafted a resolution effecting the placing of these areas under its control but it has not yet been promulgated.

“We will put these areas under Comelec control due to election-related violence there,” Melo said.

Melo revealed that election officers in Abra have refused to receive the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines way ahead of the May 10 polls, fearing that the machines would be stolen.

The machines will instead be placed in the Archbishop’s residence for safekeeping.

Melo added that Nueva Ecija has the same situation.

Yesterday, Comelec officials met with regional directors and officials of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces for a joint command conference to discuss the peace and order situation this coming elections.

The Comelec can place under its control areas where there is intense political rivalry among candidates, political parties or factions and if paramilitary forces, private armies or armed bands threaten to disrupt the polls.

Once an area is under Comelec control, the agency decides on matters concerning the elections.

Perlas wants May 10 polls postponed

Perlas wants May 10 polls postponed
By Dino Balabo
The Philippine Star

BALIUAG, Bulacan , Philippines  – Independent presidential candidate Nicanor Perlas is petitioning the Commission on Elections (Comelec) today to postpone the May 10 presidential elections for three months to prevent failure of elections and election-related violence.

Perlas said he is “90 percent sure” that the automated elections would fail if it will be held as scheduled.

“It’s better to have the elections postponed until August instead of having an election failure that may result in violence,” Perlas said in an interview Monday afternoon before conducting a house-to-house campaign in Barangay Poblacion here.

Perlas said the Comelec has to fix its problems with the automated election system before conducting the elections.

He also said violence may erupt in areas where people doubt the transparency of the automated polls.

He believes people will support his petition.

“Millions will be fooled if the automated elections will push through as scheduled. The Comelec did not prepare for a parallel manual count,” he said.

One of his volunteer lawyers, Paula Aberasturi, will file the petition at the Comelec head office in Intramuros, Manila.

During the presidential forum hosted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines yesterday, Perlas said he prefers extending the term of President Arroyo to holding the elections as scheduled.

“I’m not in favor of Arroyo but I do not want mass violence and civil war,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I am running because I want to remove the kind of influence Arroyo has built in the government.”

Perlas also wants a partial manual audit, even at the presidential level only, as a protection against discrepancies in the automated vote count.    – With Rainier Allan Ronda

7 out of 10 Pinoy voters expect vote-buying on May 10 – SWS

7 out of 10 Pinoy voters expect vote-buying on May 10 – SWS
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Seven out of 10 Filipino voters expect vote-buying to occur in their localities during the May 10 elections, a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

The special SWS Pre-election Survey, conducted from March 19 to 22, found 71 percent of registered voters expect vote-buying to take place in the coming polls.

Expectations of vote-buying increased from 57 percent in May 2007 to 63 percent in February 2010, and 71 percent in March 2010, the SWS said.

Compared to expectations of vote-buying, SWS said fewer percentages expect the following election irregularities to happen: cheating in the counting of votes (51 percent), flying voters (48 percent), harassment of voters (45 percent), and use of violence during the election campaign period (37 percent).

In the February 2010 pre-election survey, 78 percent expect voting to be clean and orderly in their precinct, and 68 percent expect the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to honestly count the votes.

However, 56 percent expect cheating in vote-counting at some levels, not limited to precincts only.

The new SWS survey showed that grassroots expectations of election irregularities in 2010 and 2007 are markedly higher compared to previous campaigns in 2004, 2001 and 1992.

In 2007, expectations of election irregularities were steady between February and mid-April, but declined from mid-April to early May.

“Compared to the May 2007 survey, expectations of election irregularities have increased in February 2010 and then in March 2010,” the SWS said.

Expectations of cheating in vote-counting increased from 45 percent in May 2007 to 49 percent in February 2010 and 51 percent in March 2010.

Expectations of harassment of voters increased from 30 percent in May 2007 to 34 percent in February 2010 and 45 percent in March 2010.

Expectations of the use of violence during the election campaign period slightly increased to 37 percent in March 2010 from 31 percent in February 2010, the first time SWS tested the issue.

“The expectations that there will be harassment of voters and use of violence during the election campaign period are higher in Mindanao than in the other three areas,” the SWS said.

Six out of 10 (60 percent) in Mindanao expect the harassment of voters to occur in their own locality, higher than those in balance Luzon (43 percent), Metro Manila (38 percent) and Visayas (36 percent) who expect the same.

On the possibility of the use of violence during the election campaign period, 52 percent in Mindanao expect this to happen.

Only about one-third in Metro Manila (35 percent), balance Luzon (32 percent) and Visayas (30 percent) believe that there will be violence during the campaign period in their locality.

The survey showed that expectation of vote-buying will occur in their respective localities is high in all areas.

In particular, reported expectation of vote-buying happening in their locality is slightly higher in Visayas (75 percent) and Mindanao (75 percent) than in balance Luzon (69 percent) and Metro Manila (66 percent).

A majority in Metro Manila and Mindanao expect cheating and flying voters to happen in their areas.

“Expectations of cheating in the counting of votes and flying voters are higher in Metro Manila and Mindanao than in balance Luzon and Visayas,” the SWS said.

Sixty percent in Mindanao and 58 percent in Metro Manila expect that there will be cheating in the counting of votes in their localities.

Most of those from Visayas (57 percent) and balance Luzon (52 percent), however, do not expect cheating in vote-counting to happen.

On the possibility of flying voters during the May 2010 elections, 60 percent in Mindanao and 57 percent in Metro Manila expect this to happen. In contrast, 62 percent in Visayas and 56 percent in balance Luzon do not expect the occurrence of flying voters.

In the February 2010 pre-election survey, most registered voters expect that voting will be clean and orderly in their own precinct, with 78 percent agreeing and six percent disagreeing with the statement, “In the coming elections, voting will be clean and orderly in our precinct,” for a net agreement of +71.

Expectation of clean and orderly voting is much higher in February 2010 than in February 2007, when 60 percent agreed and 14 percent disagreed with the statement, for a net agreement of +46, SWS said.

In February 2010, expectation on having clean and orderly voting in their own precinct in the May 10 elections is slightly higher in Visayas (+77) than in balance Luzon (+71), Mindanao (+70) and Metro Manila (+66).

In February 2007, net agreement to the test statement was also higher in the provincial areas (+46 to +49) than in Metro Manila (+32).

The survey also showed that 68 percent of Filipinos agree, while only eight percent disagree that, “The Comelec will honestly count the votes of the people in the coming elections,” for a net agreement of +60.

Belief in the Comelec honestly counting the votes in the elections is higher in February 2010 than in February 2007, when 53 percent agreed and 21 percent disagreed, for a net of +32, the SWS said.

Net agreement is higher in Visayas (+71) than in balance Luzon (+60), Mindanao (+56) and Metro Manila (+50), it added.

Fifty-six percent of respondents agree, while 16 percent disagree, that “In the coming May 2010 elections, there might be cheating in the count in some levels, but not limited to the precinct only,” for a net agreement of +39.

The expectation that there might be some cheating in the counting of votes slightly increased in February 2010 compared to February 2007, when 48 percent agreed and 21 percent disagreed, for a net agreement of +27.

By area, net agreement to the test statement is higher in Metro Manila (+50) and balance Luzon (+43) than in Mindanao (+36) and the Visayas (+29).

The survey used face-to-face interviews of 2,100 registered voters, divided into random samples of 300 in Metro Manila and 600 each in balance Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

It has sampling error margins of plus or minus 2.2 percentage point for national percentages, plus or minus six points for Metro Manila, and plus or minus four points for balance Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The February 2010 survey was sponsored by The Asia Foundation.

Bishop voices fears over troop movements in Metro

Bishop voices fears over troop movements in Metro
GMANews.TV

A senior Catholic bishop voiced concerns Friday about plans by the military to deploy troops and conduct patrols in Metro Manila ahead of the May 10 elections.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. said this plan may be part of a looming worst-case election scenario.

“This troop movement is ominous. This is scary. I fear that there planning something sinister,” Iñiguez said in an article on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news site.

Iñiguez heads the CBCP’s public affairs commission.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Metro Manila command earlier revealed the plan to position soldiers in streets and critical areas in the Metropolis.

Metro Manila Command head Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue said they were also deploying at least two battalions of “peacekeeping troops” as part of intensified security operations for the polls.

Among the areas in their list to be patrolled is Makati City, which the police have recommended placed under their control due to reported election-related violence.

Armed Forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit clarified that the planned movement of troops is in support to the security concerns raised by the police.

Bangit and Angue are both members of the controversial Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1978, of which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is an adopted member. — LBG, GMANews.TV

PNP sees violence rise as May polls near; figures say otherwise

PNP sees violence rise as May polls near; figures say otherwise
By Anthony Vargas
Dateline Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Security officials on Tuesday said they expect the number of election-related violent incidents (ERVI’s) to rise as the campaign period reaches the homestretch to the May 10 elections.

The ERVI projection echoed the earlier statements of Defense secretary and National Security adviser Norberto Gonzales.

Director General Jesus Versoza, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said, however, that the recorded number of poll-related incidents this year is comparatively low as compared to reported number of poll related incidents in the two previous elections.

As of Tuesday, the PNP already tallied a total of 37 validated ERVI’s resulting in 22 deaths and 16 injuries during the first 71 days of the campaign period for national elections, which started last January 10.

Majority of the identified casualties recorded from January 10 to April 6 were supporters of candidates, according to the PNP monitoring report.

The PNP recorded a total of 130 poll-related incidents during the same period for the 2007 elections and 122 incidents for the same period during the 2004 elections.

Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, PNP spokesman, attributed the low number of poll-related incidents recorded for this year’s election period to the intensified campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups.

“We intensified our campaign against loose firearms and private armed groups since last year and this somehow helped in lessening poll-related incidents,” Espina said in an interview.

The PNP spokesman said that to date, they have already accounted for about 64% of the estimated 1.1 million loose firearms scattered all over the country and have already neutralized over a dozed private armed groups.

Despite the relative success of the election gun ban campaign, the PNP raised its alert level status on the eve of the start of the campaign period for the local elections in a bid to prevent the outbreak of ERVIs.

“We are observing different areas and we expect that there could be an increase [in Ervi’s] towards May 10,” Versoza told reporters in a chance interview at Camp Crame.

The PNP chief said that political rivalries especially among supporters of candidates at the local level are expected to intensify in the run-up to the May 10 polls.

“We are requesting the supporters of different candidates to maintain calm and avoid any altercation with the other parties and to maintain their discipline to avoid more incidents in the elections,” Versoza said.

Versoza sees most peaceful elections in RP history

Versoza sees most peaceful elections in RP history
By Artemio Dumlao
The Philippine Star

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet , Philippines  – The country would experience the most peaceful elections in history, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.

PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa cited records indicating a marked decrease in election-related violent incidents compared to figures during the 2004 and 2007 elections.

He said that if the trend would continue, then the country is heading toward more peaceful elections on May 10.

Verzosa attributed the decrease in election violence to the strict implementation of the gun ban and monitoring of activities of suspected private armies.

Verzosa made the statement during the command turnover rites of Chief Superintendent Orlando Pestano, who retired last Monday, to Chief Superintendent Villamor Bumanglag as Cordillera regional police director.

Verzosa said there was already a marked decrease in the number of private armies operating at the command of what he described as “unscrupulous” politicians in March, with 24 private armies already disbanded.

Verzosa though admitted the number of identified private armies significantly increased from 88 to 112 last March, but he clarified that the increase was the result of their vigorous campaign to detect and identify the existence of other private armies.

Verzosa said the Zeñarosa Commission, which President Arroyo created to help authorities in dismantling private armies, would continue its task even after the May 10 elections.

He said the commission, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Monina Arevalo Zeñarosa, would continue to monitor private armies and study why they still exist, and submit recommendations to lawmakers in the effort to make gun control laws stronger and more effective.

“Under our gun laws even if you are arrested with a thousand guns, you can still bail out. We find difficulty in this,” Verzosa said.

Verzosa expressed optimism that the next Congress would tackle the problem of gun control and make the laws more effective.

Campaign for local posts begins, Comelec bracing for more violence

Campaign for local posts begins, Comelec bracing for more violence
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is bracing for a rise in violence and poll infractions as the 45-day campaign period for local races begins Friday.

Poll officials said they expect election-related violence to increase, particularly with the country’s first fully computerized polls.

“There is that possibility so we have to be doubly vigilant,” said poll commissioner Rene Sarmiento, noting that local elections in the Philippines are often bitter and violent, with families often turning against each other.

“Politics is thicker than water in the elections,” the commissioner added.

Up for grabs in the May 10 elections are 222 seats in the House of Representatives; 80 each for governors and vice governors; 762 provincial board members; 120 each for city mayors and vice mayors; 1,514 each for municipal mayors and vice mayors; 1,346 for city councilors; and 12,116 for municipal councilors.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the violence during elections have historically come from local contests.

“People are more hot-headed in local politics,” he said.

Jimenez noted that the automation process could increase election-related killings and harassment as politicians realize that they cannot subvert the system to manipulate the vote in their favor.

“There’s that remote and perverse possibility that automation might actually contribute to the slight increase in election violence. The tendency is to try to pre-empt the elections by just offing your opponent, killing your opponent or, at least, hurting them or whatever,” he said.

Private armies

Sarmiento also called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be serious in eliminating private armed groups.

Citing a police report to the poll body, Sarmiento said there are 43 verified partisan armed groups and 25 unconfirmed ones scattered throughout the country.

As of February, the PNP said 35 percent of the country’s 1,634 towns and cities have seen election-related violence.

The poll body has yet to put any town or province under Comelec control because of excessive violence.

The Comelec has not received any petition to place an area under its control, Sarmiento said, adding that concerned parties have to file a petition with the Comelec to start the process.

Sarmiento urged candidates to follow the election laws on campaign spending, advertising and other campaign activities. They should familiarize themselves with the rules on posters and streamers to avoid complaints, he said.

Jimenez noted that local candidates are the main offenders of the rules on the posting of streamers and posters.

Meanwhile, the PNP has gone on heightened alert and would remain in that status until June 9 to foil election-related violence and double its efforts against private armed groups, officials said.

To implement the gun ban imposed by the Comelec, more than 50,000 police officers have been deployed in 3,500 checkpoints across the country, said PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina.

Full alert

But the entire Mindanao, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), remain on full alert, he said.

The Zamboanga peninsula, Northern Mindanao, the Davao provinces, Socsargen and the National Capital Region have been on full alert since July “because of the series of bombings that happened there,” Espina said.

In a heightened alert status, the police would be on a round-the-clock lookout for private armed groups it earlier identified “so we can prevent their plans of conducting criminal activities against rival candidates,” Espina said.

The PNP has created special task groups to monitor 95 private armies reportedly operating in provinces identified as “election hot spots” in anticipation of a possible escalation of election-related violence when the local campaign season starts. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy