Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2007-05-23 09:38
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #1694/01 1430938
O 230938Z MAY 07



E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: A. MANILA 1647
¶B. MANILA 1613
¶C. MANILA 1544
¶D. MANILA 1521
¶E. MANILA 1494
¶F. MANILA 1467
¶G. MANILA 1215
¶H. MANILA 1073

¶1. (U) Summary. New allegations of fraud in the 2007 Philippine
mid-term elections have again weakened the credibility of the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and led to renewed calls for
automation in time for the 2010 elections. Common charges included
vote buying, vote shaving, ballot box snatching, use of “flying
voters,” and disenfranchising voters. Some new measures, such as
posting election returns at precincts and digital photographs on
return lists, helped to lessen possible poll irregularities, along
with the presence of vigilant poll watchers from the dominant and
minority political parties, party-list organizations, and civil
society watchdogs. It is difficult to assess the magnitude or
impact of any alleged irregularities, and analysts are not
questioning the elections overall, but rather conduct in certain
localities. This report conveys anecdotal information on major
allegations of irregularities. Septel will discuss problematic
elections in Maguindanao province, as well as the May 26 make-up
elections in other parts of Mindanao. End Summary.

Vote Buying

¶2. (U) As in previous elections, there were persistent allegations
of local vote buying in the May 14 elections. Newspapers reported
that in the poor sections of Dagupan City, Pangasinan Province, a
vote was worth only 20 pesos (.40 USD). In Palawan Province,
Embassy observers heard that the price ranged from 250 – 500 pesos
(5-10 USD), while in Albay Province, the alleged range was from 100
– 700 pesos (2-14 USD). In Tacloban City, Leyte Province, a
government agency reportedly paid 1,000 pesos (20 USD) to each of
its employees to vote for a non-leftist party-list organization.
The highest amount reported was in Zamboanga del Norte Province,
where votes allegedly sold for as much as 1,500 pesos (30 USD).

Vote Shaving

¶3. (U) COMELEC’s national canvassing center detected and corrected
discrepancies in provincial returns, dismissing them as “clerical
mistakes.” The provincial certificate of canvass from Zambales
province — homeland of “Team Unity” senatorial candidate and
current Governor Vicente Magsaysay – listed only 85,923 votes for
Genuine Opposition senatorial candidate Francis “Chiz” Escudero,
while the actual statement of votes gave Escudero 185,923.
Similarly, opposition senatorial candidate Alan Peter Cayetano was
credited with only 29,198 votes, when the actual returns read
129,198. The opposition candidates were credited with the correct
number of votes, but the discrepancies led to suspicions of attempts
to “shave” votes.

Ballot Box Snatching

¶4. (U) Against the backdrop of a tight three-way fight for the
Pampanga gubernatorial seat involving the moneyed wife of an alleged
drug lord, an absentee actor-governor busy making movies, and a dark
horse from the clergy who eventually won by a slim margin of votes,
unidentified armed men snatched 12 ballot boxes from election
workers en route to the canvassing center to deliver the election
returns. Authorities later found the boxes along the shore of a
nearby river. In Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan, armed men
barged into poll precincts and snatched ballot boxes while voting
was in progress. In Batangas province, men later identified as
police burned a local school holding some ballot boxes
(inadvertently killing two election workers in the fire), allegedly
at the behest of a local politician facing defeat. The Philippine
National Police have identified and now filed charges against the
policemen involved in the incident.

¶5. (U) In a separate incident, eight soldiers died in an encounter
in Abra province with suspected New People’s Army insurgents
apparently seeking to seize ballot boxes on behalf of a local
candidate (ref b).

“Flying Voters”

¶6. (U) Another Philippine practice is to hire “flying voters” to
vote for certain candidates under fictitious names in polling

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centers other than their own. In Lanao del Sur province, residents
claim to have spotted a busload of 70 “flying voters” arriving in
Marawi City from neighboring Iligan City to vote for a certain
candidate in exchange for 1,000 pesos (20 USD). In Occidental
Mindoro Province, truckloads of Mangyan (indigenous) voters,
identified with name tags and precinct numbers, were reportedly
ferried to polling places by Tagalog-speaking people. On a more
positive note, a field election supervisor in Cagayan de Oro City
won commendation for successfully cleansing the voters’ list of as
many as 20,000 apparent “flying voters” before Election Day.

Disenfranchised Voters

¶7. (U) Perhaps the most common complaint among voters was not
finding their names in the master list of voters in their polling
centers and thus not being able to cast their ballots. In some
cases, the voters themselves may have failed to re-register in time,
while in other cases new procedures to organize voters by date of
registration or address rather than in alphabetical order
complicated the search for the right precinct list. However, many
alleged that precinct officials sometimes eliminated the names of
voters whose votes might go to a rival candidate (usually for local
office rather than national). It is difficult to assess how
extensive this problem was.

Military Campaigning

¶8. (U) The Department of National Defense and the COMELEC in 2006
signed a memorandum of agreement limiting the military’s
participation in election work to securing polling places in
election hotspots. (Note: The Constitution prohibits members of the
military from engaging “directly or indirectly in any partisan
political activity, except to vote.” End Note.) However, there
were numerous but unsubstantiated reports that some local military
commanders actively campaigned against leftist party-list
organizations and/or “ordered” troops to vote only in favor of “Team
Unity” Senate candidates.

New Measures Helped Lessen Possible Fraud

¶9. (U) COMELEC instituted some additional measures to prevent
election fraud, notably, publicly posting election returns at
polling precincts for 48 hours after counting of votes. The poll
body also agreed to give accredited poll watchdog organizations and
the official minority Liberal party a copy of the election returns
and the certificates of canvass. However, there were complaints in
some areas that accredited poll watchers did not always receive
these copies, as well as complaints from the National Citizens’
Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) that its officials had
detected in some places bogus NAMFREL officials trying to obtain
these copies.

Poll Watchers Also Deterred Election Fraud

¶10. (U) The presence of poll watchers from the dominant LAKAS and
minority Liberal parties, party-list organizations, and civil
society watchdog organizations — such as the Parish Pastoral
Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and NAMFREL — contributed to
lessening possible poll irregularities. In Pampanga, followers of
governor-elect Father Ed Panlilio lit candles, sang religious hymns,
and kept a vigilant watch during the canvassing of votes. In some
precincts, these observers were allowed in the room during the
actual counting of ballots, while in most precincts they had to
monitor through open windows or doors.

Delayed Canvassing

¶11. (U) Nine days after the elections, election officials have
proclaimed only approximately 50% of the municipal, city,
provincial, and Congressional winners. Losing candidates have
already begun to complain and/or file charges of fraud or other
irregularities. In Isabela province, gubernatorial candidate and
former Governor Benjamin Dy, who trails behind incumbent Governor
Grace Padaca by some 5,000 votes, has sought the exclusion of votes
in 182 precincts due to alleged irregularities. Abra Province has
temporarily suspended canvassing due to allegations of
irregularities by Congressional candidate and outgoing Governor
Vicente Valera against winning opponent Cecilia Luna, who lost six
relatives to election-related violence allegedly perpetrated by the
Valera camp. Accusations of irregularities between gubernatorial
candidates Gerry Salapuddin and Wahab Akbar have also delayed the

MANILA 00001694 003 OF 003

final canvassing in Basilan Province.

¶12. (U) COMELEC’s National Canvassing Board estimates it can
complete the canvassing of votes for the Senate and party-list race
by the first week of June, when special make-up elections and
canvassing for certain areas — Lanao del Sur, Sulu, and Basilan as
well as parts of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao — will be
complete following COMELEC’s decisions to declare local elections as
failed or to delay them due to the absence of election workers, poll
irregularities, and/or violence. NAMFREL hopes to finish its
parallel “quick” count (apart from Maguindanao and the above
mentioned sites) on May 24.

——————————————— —
Automated Elections for 2010 – Really and Truly?
——————————————— —

¶13. (U) Presidential Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye announced on May
21 that the Arroyo Administration was determined to automate the
electoral process in time for the 2010 presidential elections. He
stated that, with “political will,” three years would be sufficient
to implement the needed reforms. Earlier this year, Congress passed
the Automated Electoral System Act, but COMELEC successfully
protested that it did not have sufficient time to implement even on
a trial or partial basis for the May 14 polls.

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