Is the May 2013 mid-term election SAFE?

Is the May 2013 mid-term election SAFE?

May 21, 2013: There were different views have been obtained from the experiences of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the general public before and during  the May 2013 mid-term elections especially here in the southern Philippines particularly the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has been tagged as the “cheating capital” of the Philippines.

Asked if the said label remains consistent or existing after the mid-term elections, Tu Alfonso, National Vice for Internal Affairs, said “Let the common people and election watchdogs provide their answers to these questions in order to have concrete feedbacks from the ground.”

“Prior to the day of May 13 mid-term election, the members of the CSOs in Mindanao grouped together aiming for having a Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful (CHAMP) and Secure and Fair Election  or SAFE 2013 elections,” he added.

Mahdie Amella, Executive Director of the Mindanao Action for Peace and Development (MAPAD Initiative) told that there are two groups of election watchdogs organized in Central Mindanao namely; the Cotabato Coalition for Conflict Mitigation and Meaningful Election (CC-COME) operating in North Cotabato areas, and the Maguindanao Peace Advocates (MPA), which has been mainly focusing in areas of  Maguindanao province that was famously known to have had the ‘most violent election related incident’ in the annals of history because of the death of 57 people reported in May 2010 elections.

“To avoid its repeat, the MPA, CC-COME and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Commission on Election (COMELEC) had had a series of election peace covenants signings and security summits with the political candidates and the communities with support from the Asia Foundation and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID),” Amella, also a Coordinator of MPA, elucidated.

“The two election monitors have almost similar experiences during the conduct of covenant signing – we both experienced the non-appearance of some candidates,” said Anwar Saluwang, Director of the Development Management Center (DMC) of UNYPAD.

“There was an instance that those local candidates who failed to attend the affair, the military took them from their houses and brought to the place of the gathering,” he disclosed.

PPCRV monitorsAsked about the challenging situation he faced in election watch, Hamsa Landayan, Executive Director of the Local Initiatives for Peace and Development in Mindanao (LIPAD Mindanao), said, “the most crucial and challenging activity of the election watchdogs was in the very day of election.”

“One thing I realized is that the election cheating in the Philippines is not that easy to get rid of,” Landayan opined.

“I think the government should double its efforts in finding ways in addressing the serious problem of elections in the country, otherwise the nation will endlessly fail to have leaders duly and freely chosen by people based on their competitiveness, qualities and capabilities,” he added.

Baina Samayatin, Project Officer of the Maguindanao Peace Advocates, said that she believes that election cheating and fraud in the country is considered to be a serious disease which can’t easily be cured.

“What is important is that we did our best so that we can contribute in the overall efforts in making the elections clean, safe and honest,” Baina, also an Executive Director of the Moro Women Development and Cultural Center (MWDECC) said.

On the other hand, the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported that this mid-term election has recorded “less election-related violence,” it reached only 81 incidents as compared to 229 cases in 2007 election and 179 cases for the presidential elections in 2010. (UNYPAD News)