Sep 222014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/08/08MANILA1956.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1956
2008-08-15 08:39
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO1492
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1956/01 2280839
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 150839Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1622
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 001956

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2018
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM RP
SUBJECT: GOVERNOR AMPATUAN REELECTED IN AUTOMATED ARMM ELECTIONS

REF: A. MANILA 1930 (FIRST EVER AUTOMATED ARMM ELECTIONS
PEACEFUL EFFICIENT)
¶B. MANILA 1696 (LOCAL ELECTIONS IN MUSLIM MINDANAO
IMPACT PEACE PROCESS)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Incumbent Governor Zaldy Ampatuan won his
reelection bid in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
(ARMM) with 93 percent of total votes, a huge margin over the
second place finisher, who garnered only 1.7 percent,
according to the official results from the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC). The 85 percent turnout among eligible
ARMM voters exceeded COMELEC’s earlier predictions of 60
percent, reflecting both the novelty of the new automated
voting systems as well as the ability of the Ampatuan clan to
mobilize voters and influence ARMM provincial officials. The
new automated vote-counting systems deprived candidates of
the opportunity to alter the vote totals. However, there
were reports of more traditional forms of influence, such as
vote-buying, ballot stuffing, and the co-opting of election
workers. Irregularities aside, the new voting systems were
also affected by mundane problems such as power outages and
data transmission failures, which caused minor confusion and
delays. Nonetheless, election monitors and foreign observers
concluded that the ARMM elections, while not entirely free
from irregularities, were successful because of the calm,
peaceful, and orderly manner in which they were executed, and
most believe that the lessons learned will be instructive for
the 2010 national elections. End Summary.

AMPATUAN’S LANDSLIDE VICTORY
—————————-

¶2. (C) Incumbent Governor Zaldy Ampatuan won his reelection
bid in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),
earning 93 percent of all votes, the Commission on Elections
announced August 13. This represents a huge margin of
victory over second-place finisher Alvarez Isnaji, mayor of
Indanan in Sulu province, who garnered only 1.7 percent of
the total. Ampatuan’s margin of victory was helped by the
large number of independent candidates, whose reputations
could not rival his own and who split a smaller share of
votes. Incumbent Vice-Governor Ansaruddin Adiong was also
reelected. The other candidates of Lakas-CMD, the party of
Governor Ampatuan and the Arroyo Administration, fared well,
garnering 17 of the 24 regional assembly spots, but still had
a net loss of two seats.

¶3. (C) Total voter turnout of 85 percent, representing 1.3
million of 1.5 million eligible voters, dwarfed COMELEC’s
earlier predictions of 60 percent voter turnout. Intense
voter interest in the new technology as well as government
education efforts, including “mock elections” in July,
encouraged voters to go to the polls. Election officials
interviewed by U.S. Mission observers said they noted more
younger voters this year than in previous elections, in part
due to the interest among young people in the new voting
technology. Still, some observers suspected that such a high
turnout would have been impossible without a strong push from
the various candidates.

NEW SYSTEM, WITH SOME FAMILIAR SCHEMES
————————————–

¶4. (C) The grouping of voting centers into fewer precincts
than in previous ARMM elections made it easier to resolve
technical difficulties, an important consideration since
touch-screen voting and optical reader technologies were
being tested in a real election for the first time. This
consolidation of voting centers also allowed for more
effective management by election officials. In practice,
according to monitors’ reports, most voting centers enforced
the basic COMELEC guidelines for free and fair elections. A
large number of voting centers appeared to be well managed,
with some election officials strictly enforcing rules on
checking identification cards, creating shields for voter
privacy, and forbidding the presence of non-voters in the
voting rooms.

¶5. (C) Other voting centers were less rigorously managed,
while still others appeared susceptible to influence from
candidates’ family members, political party volunteers, or
village officials. (At one precinct, a few kilometers from
Ampatuan’s house, the Governor’s brother, Benny Ampatuan,

MANILA 00001956 002 OF 002

stood watch directly outside the voting centers.) Election
monitors and foreign observers occasionally witnessed voting
irregularities, such as vote buying with cash handouts, voter
identification fraud, the presence of voting “assistants” who
guided voters’ selections, and ballot stuffing, in which a
single individual filled out numerous optical reader ballots.
Contrary to election guidelines, community officials were
also standing near voting centers and there were cases
observed of military officers or other persons with guns
inside the precincts. COMELEC’s decision to locate precincts
on main roads seemed to have forced rural residents in
far-flung villages to rely on private transportation, which,
according to some monitors’ reports, could have been provided
by political parties. The 85 percent voter turnout led some
monitors to speculate that voters were trucked in from other
villages or even other provinces (as “fly-in voters”) to vote
in the place of no-shows before polls closed at three
o’clock. At the end of the day, monitors noted that some
precincts reported 100 percent voter turnout.

MUNDANE CHALLENGES, TOO
———————–

¶6. (C) Overall, both COMELEC officials and Mission observers
assessed that the new automated systems performed well.
However, some areas were affected by problems such as power
outages and data transmission failures. Maguindanao province
was selected for the touch-screen voting machines because it
had the most reliable electric grid in the ARMM. That grid,
however, failed in some locations a few hours before polls
were set to close, shutting down the satellite transmission
systems. This power failure forced precincts to hand-deliver
the voting data to the provincial canvassing center, further
delaying the provincial tabulation of election results. Also
in Maguindanao, some election officials had trouble
consolidating the votes from several voting machines onto one
machine and complained about incorrect wiring. While
election workers claimed that the COMELEC made voter
education materials available in the local dialect, U.S.
Mission election observers only saw materials in Tagalog and
English.

COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) While the ARMM elections were not perfect, COMELEC
demonstrated that it can run an efficient and, for the most
part, clean automated election that required sophisticated
management capabilities and extensive training of election
workers, volunteers, and voting machine technicians. In
light of COMELEC’s string of election scandals over the past
decade and under the new leadership of Chairman Melo, a
retired Supreme Court Justice, this in itself is a
significant accomplishment. The voter turnout exceeded all
expectations and, indeed, all probabilities, according to
some election monitors. Electronic voting will give COMELEC
and election monitors more sophisticated tools to determine
if fraud took place, while the decision to condense the
number of precincts gave candidates more centralized channels
to influence voters.

KENNEY

   

 

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