Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-02-15 07:35
2011-08-30 01:44
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 646
¶C. 04 MANILA 6032
¶D. 04 MANILA 4416
¶E. 04 MANILA 185

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

¶2. (SBU) Summary: Executive branch and Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) sources confirm that regional assembly
(ARMM) elections in Mindanao are on track to take place in
August 2005. Nationwide neighborhood (barangay) elections
slated for later this year are likely to be postponed until
at least May 2007. In the meantime, COMELEC has sent a
comprehensive report to Congress recommending several
possible amendments to existing law in support of
long-standing electoral reform efforts. These proposals are
likely to face in-depth legislative scrutiny later in 2005.

¶3. (SBU) Summary (Continued): COMELEC seems to recognize
that it must move forward expeditiously in order to reform a
system that showed serious signs of strain during the May
2004 elections. Mission continues to underscore support for
the reform effort via political outreach and via the
USG-funded Consortium for Political Process Strengthening
(CEPPS) project. End Summary.

ARMM Election Plans

¶4. (SBU) COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos described the
status of his organization’s 2005 agenda in a wide-ranging
February 14 discussion with Acting Polcouns and poloff.
Abalos was optimistic that the planned elections in the
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will take place
on August 8, 2005. (Note: Elections for governor, vice
governor and the regional legislative council are slated to
take place at this time. The last ARMM elections occurred in
November 2001. They were scheduled to take place in November
2004, but were postponed due to budgetary constraints. See
Ref D.) In a February 11 meeting with Acting Polcouns,
Gabriel Claudio, a key political adviser to President Arroyo,
confirmed that the ARMM elections look set to take place in
August. He asserted that recent fighting on Jolo Island in
the Sulu Archipelago (Ref A) and periodic flare-ups in other
parts of the ARMM would &almost certainly not impact8 the
date of the election.

¶5. (SBU) Abalos related that approximately 20,000 new voters
had already registered for the upcoming election and that
COMELEC was moving forward with voter registration drives
throughout the five ARMM provinces. In doing this, each
regional COMELEC office was using computerized biometric
registration procedures in order to create a more secure and
accessible centralized voter registry. Abalos said the
biometric system had allowed COMELEC to cleanse the list of
over 100,000 duplicate registrants in the ARMM area (where
there are just over one million registered voters total).
COMELEC hoped these procedures — along with the use of
automated counting machines — would lead to confidence in
the integrity of the election results in the ARMM.

¶6. (SBU) When queried about the automated counting machines,
Abalos replied that COMELEC had filed a motion with the
Supreme Court in December 2004 to request permission to
deploy some machines to the ARMM for the election. (Note:
The machines, which were purchased at great cost, were
impounded when the Supreme Court ruled that the COMELEC
contract to purchase the machines was illegal — Ref E. The
machines were not used in the May 2004 elections.) Abalos
commented that COMELEC “hoped very much the automated
machines could be used because they are doing no good locked
in a warehouse.8 He was not sure how or when the Supreme
Court would ultimately decide the issue, however.

Postponing Barangay Elections

¶7. (SBU) Abalos confirmed reports that the neighborhood
(barangay) elections currently scheduled for October 2005
would most likely be rescheduled for May 2007 when they could
be held at the same time as national mid-term elections. He
noted that the reasons for postponing the elections include a
lack of GRP funds to hold them. The barangay elections are
the lowest level of retail politics in the Philippines,
wherein citizens from 41,974 barangays nationwide elect a
total of nearly 350,000 local political officials. The
current crop of incumbent barangay officials were elected on
July 16, 2002, for three-year terms supposed to end this
¶8. (SBU) Claudio told Acting Polcouns that he expected
Malacanang and the legislative branches to focus fully on the
barangay elections issue once the current debate over fiscal
reforms concluded (see Ref B). Claudio said he thought that
all sides would ultimately agree that the barangay polls
should take place as part of the mid-term elections in 2007.

COMELEC,s “Wish List”

¶9. (SBU) Abalos said COMELEC had recently sent a
comprehensive report to the House and the Senate listing its
key electoral reform priorities. COMELEC expected many of
the reforms to be incorporated into a revised omnibus
election code bill that it hoped would be signed into law in
late 2005 or early 2006. Top priorities include the

— The granting of COMELEC’s December 2004 motion filed with
the Supreme Court concerning use of automated counting
machines during the upcoming ARMM elections (as mentioned
above in paras 4 and 5);

— An amendment to allow the electronic transmittal of
returns containing election results. This amendment is meant
to facilitate a more rapid calculation of voting results and
is designed to allow for the electronic transmittal of
results calculated by the counting machines;

— An amendment requiring all voters to register for the May
2007 elections using the new biometric registration process.
Voters not re-registered using this process would be barred
from voting;

— An amendment forcing candidates standing for elected
office to automatically resign from any currently-held
elected position; and,

— An amendment to remove municipal and barangay-level
electoral protest proceedings from COMELEC’s jurisdiction.
According to Abalos, electoral complaints at these lower
levels had created too many administrative bottlenecks for
COMELEC. Such cases could be dealt with better by
local-level courts.


¶10. (SBU) COMELEC seems to recognize that it must move
forward expeditiously in order to reform a system that showed
serious signs of strain during the May 2004 elections. Its
“wish list” directly seeks to address many of the key
problems that afflicted the May 2004 elections: nationwide
confusion with the voter registration lists; slow counting
due to the use of antiquated manual counting procedures; and
an overload of election protests that consumed much of
COMELEC’s limited resources.

¶11. (SBU) Comment (Continued): Mission continues to
underscore support for the reform effort via political
outreach and via the USG-funded Consortium for Political
Process Strengthening (CEPPS) project. As reviewed in
Reftels, the current phase of the CEPPS project involves
helping build the organizational and technological capacity
of COMELEC and concerned NGO’s through the provision of
technical assistance and targeted training. These efforts
are focused in the first instance on assisting the GRP
conduct smooth elections in the ARMM later this year.




Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.