Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3655 2005-08-08 09:23 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

¶B. MANILA 3477
¶C. MANILA 3116
¶D. MANILA 3046

¶1. (U) This message is Sensitive But Unclassified — Please
handle accordingly.

¶2. (SBU) Summary: The August 8 elections in the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have proceeded in largely an
orderly fashion as of the close of polls at 1500 hrs local.
Mission observers on the ground have reported a steady stream
of voters turning out to the polls. Philippine security
forces are strongly in evidence and no serious cases of
violence have been reported so far. Results are expected to
be announced by August 10. Given the continued possibility
of fraud and violence, it is still too early to call the
elections a success, but problems thus far appear to be
isolated in nature. End Summary.

ARMM Elections

¶3. (SBU) The August 8 elections in the ARMM have proceeded
in largely an orderly fashion. The polls were open from 0700
to 1500 local to elect a new governor, a new vice governor
and all 24 members of the ARMM Regional Assembly. The five
Mission observer teams on the ground reported that voting
began with a trickle, but steadily increased as the day wore
on. (Note: There are five Mission teams in the region: one
in Basilan, two in Cotabato, one in Marawi and one in Sultan
Kudarat. End Note.) The number of registered voters in the
ARMM’s five provinces and one chartered city was 1.3 million.
In 2001, 82 percent of registered voters participated in the
elections. The turnout figures for today’s elections have
not yet been released, though Mission observers are reporting
somewhat higher than 70 percent turnout in most of the
precincts they have visited.

¶4. (SBU) In most precincts they observed, Mission teams
reported that voting was orderly with a few isolated
exceptions. In several precincts in Marawi City, voting was
delayed when Commission on Elections (COMELEC) officials were
late in setting up voting stations. However, by mid-morning
all precincts that Mission team visited in Marawi were up and
running. Mission observers reported scattered occurrences of
possible voting irregularities, including: unauthorized
people loitering close to polling places; bystanders
apparently coaching voters; and illegal campaigning within 30
meters of polling places. COMELEC officials are also
considering a possible declaration of “failure of election”
over charges of “ballot snatching” in 10 barangays (village
districts) in the area of Sumisip, Basilan Province. Some
voters also complained that they could not vote because
employers in Cotabato City would not give them the day off to
leave the area and go outside of it to vote. (Note:
Cotabato City, though the administrative capital of the ARMM,
is technically not part of the ARMM and is not covered by the
election holiday in the region. End Note.)

Largely Peaceful, So Far

¶5. (SBU) As of the close of polls, no incidents of serious
violence have been reported. Philippine security forces were
strongly in evidence throughout the region. According to the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Command,
12,000 soldiers and 6,400 police personnel are securing the
elections. The security forces have set up hundreds of
checkpoints to prevent the entry of unauthorized elements and
to search for weapons. Security forces have reported that
they were closely monitoring 122 “hot spots” in Lanao del Sur
and Maguindinao Provinces where incidents of election-related
violence have been reported in the past. The AFP was also
monitoring about a dozen identified “hot spots” on the island
provinces of Sulu and Tawi Tawi so identified due to tensions
between members of rival political clans vying for Assembly
seats. Thus far, as in other places in the region, the
situation in the “hot spots” appears to have been basically
peaceful and manageable.

¶6. (U) There were two incidents of note. Alleged supporters
of a local official in Lanao del Sur Province fired shots
near a polling precinct, causing COMELEC to temporarily
suspend voting. No injuries were reported in the incident.
In addition, according to local media, a group in South Upi,
Maguindinao Province, barricaded the municipal hall,
preventing voting from taking place. The group is reportedly
upset over a still-unresolved protest it filed over the 2004
mayoral elections. COMELEC officials announced today they
may have to extend voting in the area until tomorrow. So
far, there are no reports of any violence or injuries in
connection with this latter incident.

Counting will take Time

¶7. (SBU) With the closing of the polls, ballots are now being
gathered and moved to regional counting centers for
tabulation. This move to regional centers was an innovation
by COMELEC, which wanted to reduce the possibility of fraud.
Counting will take time, as ballots must be transported from
outlying precincts to counting centers in Cotabato City and
elsewhere. (Note: All ballots from Lanao del Sur and
Maguindinao Provinces will be counted at centers set up in
Cotabato City. Ballots from the island provinces of Basilan,
Sulu, and Tawi Tawi will be counted at central locations on
each island. End note.) COMELEC Commissioner Florentino
Tuason told poloff that he expects to announce the election
results 48 hours after polls close (i.e., by August 10).
Mission observer teams reported that poll watchers from
President Arroyo’s Lakas party have far outnumbered those
from the opposition Liberal Party or other parties. This
would suggest that the campaign of Zaldy Ampatuan, the Lakas
candidate, is particularly well-organized. Ampatuan, the
mayor of Shariff Aguak in Maguindinao Province, is the
favorite to win the gubernatorial race over Ibrahim “Toto”
Paglas and several other candidates who are less well-known
(ref b).


¶8. (SBU) Philippine elections have a well-justified
reputation for fraud and violence. So far, however, today’s
elections seem to have generally gone well. It is still too
early to declare the elections a success: much fraud and
violence in Philippine elections notoriously takes place
during the counting phase, which is just beginning in the
ARMM. Thus, the situation needs continued close scrutiny by
COMELEC, local monitors, the press, and security forces.
Mission observation teams, along with those from other
countries, appear to have played a positive role, with local
monitors and average citizens in the Muslim-dominated region
warmly welcoming our engagement. The U.S. has also assisted
by providing support through a grant to the International
Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), which has helped
improve COMELEC capabilities and train local monitors.




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