Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3710 2005-08-11 07:30 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003710



E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/11/2015

¶C. MANILA 3677
¶D. MANILA 3655
¶E. MANILA 3611
¶F. MANILA 3116

Classified By: Political Officer Timothy Cipullo for
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) Summary: Final results from the August 8 elections
in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have been
delayed due to poor weather and other reasons. Unofficial
results indicate that Zaldy Ampatuan, the favored candidate
for governor, and running-mate Ansarrudin Adiong, the favored
candidate for vice-governor, will win handily. The law and
order situation in the ARMM remains largely calm. In the
meantime, allegations of fraud are increasing with one
gubernatorial candidate claiming he was cheated and
supporters of another making similar claims. Mission
observers, along with those from other countries, also
witnessed apparent irregularities and non-transparent
procedures on election day and after. Unfortunately, despite
GRP promises to make them clean, the elections already have a
taint on them, though it is difficult to assess whether the
alleged fraud was large-scale and had an impact on the
results. End Summary.

Final Results Not Yet Out

¶2. (U) Commission on Elections (COMELEC) officials have
announced that bad weather has contributed to a delay in the
proclamation of the final results from the August 8 ARMM
elections. COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos was unable to
convene the regional board of canvassers on August 10 because
heavy rains in Cotabato City — where the group was supposed
to meet — forced his helicopter to divert to another
location. In addition to the weather, some other technical
-related problems have cropped up that have caused COMELEC to
have to delay issuance of the final results, which were
expected on August 10.

¶3. (U) Several non-governmental and religious groups,
accredited by COMELEC, have released unofficial tabulations
that show Zaldy Ampatuan headed for an easy victory in the
gubernatorial race. Ampatuan’s running mate Ansarrudin
Adiong is also leading the vice governor’s race by a wide
margin. Both Ampatuan and Adiong were endorsed by the Lakas
Party, which is part of President Arroyo’s governing
coalition. Unofficial partial tallies, as of late August 11,
show Ampatuan with 482,213 votes, ahead of Mahid Mutilan with
177,769 votes and Ibrahim “Toto” Paglas with 61,257 votes.
Adiong leads with 388,988 votes over his vice gubernatorial
challengers Hatta Dimaporo (112,266 votes) and Ismael
Abubakar (94,439 votes). COMELEC Commissioner Resurreccion
“Rex” Borra has announced that he expects to announce the
winners of all 24 Regional Assembly seats at some point on
August 11. It is not clear when the final results from the
governor and vice governor races will be available.

¶4. (U) The law and order situation remains largely calm.
Mission has not heard of serious election-related violence in
the ARMM. Security forces remain in place. (Note: See ref
a for a report about bombings in Zamboanga City on August 10.
Zamboanga City is not part of the ARMM and residents there
did not participate in the elections. End Note.)

Complaints of Cheating

¶5. (C) Even before results the are officially announced,
some candidates are crying foul. Ibrahim “Toto” Paglas, who
is distantly trailing Ampatuan in the early unofficial
tallies, complained of “having been cheated” in an August 10
press interview. He averred that he had received reports of
local officials campaigning for candidates on election day
near precincts and of ballots filled out in advance. An
assistant to Paglas, Edgar Bullecer, contacted poloff on
August 10 and expressed “frustration with the process” and
deep concern about reports of fraud. Bullecar said Paglas
had not decided whether to file a protest over the election.
Supporters of another gubernatorial candidate, Mahid Mutilan,
claimed that their candidate was cheated, specifically in
Maguindinao Province (the bailiwick of Ampatuan). House
Deputy Speaker Abdulgani “Gerry” Salapuddin, who withdrew
from the governor’s race after Lakas endorsed Ampatuan (ref
e), attended an August 10 rally in Basilan, calling on
COMELEC to declare the ARMM elections “a failure.”
Salapuddin told the crowd, “What happened was selection, not

Concerns about Irregularities

¶6. (C) International observers also have concerns about the
elections. Beverly Hagerdon Thakur (Amcit — please
protect), an expert with the International Foundation on
Election Systems (IFES), was generally critical of the polls’
credibility. (Note: IFES, an international NGO, has been
operating in the Philippines on a two-year USAID grant
focused on assisting electoral reforms. End Note.) In an
August 11 conversation with poloff, she characterized the
election as “not clean” and alleged that at least some of the
alleged fraud may have been well-orchestrated. According to
Hagerdon, a key civil society group that IFES works with, the
Citizens Coalition for ARMM elections (CCAE), has yet to put
out a statement on the credibility of the August 8 polls.
CCAE members indicated that they were worried that if they
said anything negative about COMELEC they would lose their
accreditation in future elections. The Parish Pastoral
Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), the
COMELEC-accredited civil society poll-watching arm, has
similarly been quiet on the subject of the fairness and
credibility of the elections.

¶7. (C) Mission observers reported that, although incidents
of possible cheating at the polls may have been isolated, a
chaotic atmosphere at ballot counting centers created ample
opportunities for non-transparent tallying or possible vote
padding. Mission personnel witnessed several potentially
suspicious actions, such as unauthorized people at the
counting stations, abandoned ballot boxes, insufficient
numbers of poll watchers at the counting centers, and tally
sheets apparently filled out in advance of counting (see refs
b and c). Observers from the embassies of Australia, Canada,
New Zealand and the United Kingdom reported similar problems
at a post-election wrap-up meeting on August 10, though they
agreed that it would be difficult to try to infer an overall
picture of the elections from the small number of sites
observers visited. Nonetheless, despite allegations of fraud
and irregularities, interlocutors generally believe that the
election this year was an improvement over those in the past.
Contacts noted in particular the relatively peaceful nature
of the voting and counting and expressed hope that this would
be the trend in the future.


¶8. (C) If Ampatuan indeed wins, it will not be a surprise.
His family is well-known and he had the backing of Lakas,
which was taken by many as an implicit endorsement by
Malacanang (the President, in fact, remained publicly
neutral). Unfortunately, despite GRP promises to keep them
clean, the elections already have a taint on them. As noted,
Mission observers and those from other countries witnessed
localized instances of irregularities and there were other
apparent anomalies. Amid the general chaos of Philippine
elections, it is difficult to assess whether the alleged
fraud was large-scale and actually had an impact on the
results, however. It is, for example, difficult to envisage
any candidate overcoming Ampatuan’s natural advantages in the
gubernatorial race. The GRP will no doubt try to muddle
through, though the ARMM elections — like the May 2004
national elections — underscore the point that COMELEC is
badly in need of additional reform.

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