Sep 222014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2007-05-07 09:17
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

DE RUEHML #1467/01 1270917
O 070917Z MAY 07



E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: A. Manila 1215
– B. Manila 1073

¶1. Summary. The 2007 mid-term Congressional elections will take
place on May 14, along with provincial and local elections. (The
next Presidential election is not until 2010.) Embassy will field
observers throughout the country, in coordination with other
Embassies and Philippine civil society groups. Philippine elections
have historically included numerous killings of campaign workers and
even candidates (as is already true this year) as well as recurrent
allegations of cheating. USAID programs have encouraged civic
responsibility and good electoral practices. Embassy will report
May 15 on conduct of election; we will report on results as they
become available later in May. End Summary.

The Basics

¶2. Elections take place in the Philippines every three years on the
second Monday of May. This year’s elections will be on May 14 for a
total of 17,889 seats nationwide. The national, provincial, and
municipal elective seats at stake include:

– 12 senators (ref a);
– all members of the House of Representatives. There are 220 seats
available in this year’s elections from geographic constituencies
and a maximum of 55 from party list elections. The total number of
members varies from one Congress to another, depending on how many
party list (ref b) candidates gain the minimum required percent of
– governors, vice governors, and provincial legislators from 81
provinces (940), but not from autonomous regions;
– mayors, vice mayors, and council members from 118 cities (1558);
– mayors, vice mayors, and council members from 1,558 towns

¶3. An estimated 87,000 candidates are vying for these positions.
Republic Act 7166 of 1991 limited campaign spending per candidate to
no more than three Philippine pesos per voter (five pesos per voter
for independent candidates), while political parties may spend no
more than ten pesos per voter. Most observers note that these
figures are unrealistic and unenforceable. A recent poll indicated
that a majority of voters believed there would be vote buying again
this year. Senate candidates have 90 days to campaign, while all
candidates for all lower offices have 45 days.

Registration and Turnout

¶4. There are approximately 45 million registered voters qualified
to cast their vote in some 225,000 voting precincts nationwide (on
average, 200 voters per precinct). The number of registered voters
in the 2004 presidential elections reached 43.32 million, with Metro
Manila accounting for 5.88 million voters. Male voters made up 49%
while female voters, 51%. In national and local elections, voter
turnout is generally high. Turnout in the 2001 midterm elections
was 76%, while in the 2004 presidential elections reached 77%.
COMELEC officials and civil society representatives have predicted
this year’s turnout to be in the vicinity of 75%-80%. There is
limited but expanding absentee voting, notably among the millions of
Overseas Filipino Workers.


¶5. Voters may cast their vote from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on
election day. Voters must manually write in the names of their
preferred candidates for the following positions:

– 12 Senators;
– One lower house representative from the district;
– One party-list group (by party, not by individual representative),
elected at-large;
– Provincial governor;
– Provincial vice governor;
– Several provincial councilors (number ranges from 5 – 10,
depending on the population of the province);
– Mayor;
– Vice mayor;
– Several municipal councilors (number ranges from 5 -10).

¶6. In theory, a voter would typically have to fill out between 20
to 30 names of candidates, but may refer to a listing of all
candidates at each polling station. The Philippine system uses
standardized forms nationwide but is not yet automated, despite
recent passage of a law mandating at least partial automation. The
COMELEC judged that there was insufficient time for implementation
in May 2007, especially given a 2004 Supreme Court decision voiding
a COMELEC contract for automated equipment under an earlier law.


MANILA 00001467 002 OF 003


¶7. Shortly after the polls close at each of the 225,000 precincts,
a COMELEC three-member team — usually composed of public school
teachers — counts the votes. After the precinct-level counting,
officials forward the totals to a municipal canvassing board, which
tallies the precincts and forwards the results to a provincial
canvassing board. The provincial canvassing board then tallies all
municipal results and forwards the results to COMELEC headquarters,
which has until June 30 to proclaim the winners. Winning candidates
for local elective seats are usually known within one week after
election day. It generally takes the national board of canvassers
at least two weeks to complete the canvassing of votes for
senatorial candidates and to proclaim the winners. Frequently,
election protests filed by losing candidates effectively delay the
proclamation of some winners.


¶8. From January 14 through June 13, 2007, COMELEC rules prohibit:

– Bearing or transporting firearms and other deadly weapons in
public places unless authorized by the COMELEC;
– Suspension of elective local officials;
– Transfer of civil service officers and employees;
– Organization or maintenance of reaction or strike forces;
– Use of security personnel or bodyguards by candidates.

Major Political Parties

¶9. Individually or in coalition with others, the following major
political parties are fielding candidates:

– Lakas (Strength) Christian Muslim Democrat Party (aka Lakas CMD
or simply Lakas) is the dominant party currently controlling only
three (7%) of 24 Senate seats but 79 (37%) of 212 House seats and
roughly 50% of all provincial and municipal elective seats. Lakas
leads a pro-administration coalition under its chief, House Speaker
Jose de Venecia;

– Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) is the second largest party,
controlling 41 seats (19%) in the House of Representatives and
roughly 18% of provincial and municipal elective seats. The party
is theoretically a member of the pro-administration coalition in the
House but a small faction is nonetheless with the Opposition

– Liberal Party (LP) controls 4 (9.5%) of the 24 Senate seats along
with 35 (16.5%) seats in the House and roughly 9% of local seats.
LP belonged to the pro-administration coalition in both houses of
Congress until the party split over the issue of allegations of
election fraud in 2004 involving the President – the Supreme Court
recently ruled that the leadership remained with the LP faction
opposing the President;

– Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) or Partner of the Free
Filipino under President Arroyo (although she is also a titular
leader of Lakas) controls 29 seats in the House but only a few local
seats and none in the Senate;

– Nacionalista Party (NP) controls three seats in the Senate and
seven seats in the House. It has significant presence at the local

¶10. The pro-Administration “Team Unity” and the “Genuine
Opposition” have fielded slates of candidates for the Senate race
(ref a), with a small “third force” not identified with either camp.
There are alliances as well for the local races, but candidates
generally run under individual parties. In many localities,
candidates are running unopposed, but in others candidates from two
or more of the pro-Administration coalition parties are competing
against each other.

¶11. As described in more detail in ref b, party-list organizations
must obtain at least two percent of the vote nationwide to win one
seat and can each obtain a maximum of three seats with six percent
or more of the vote. The COMELEC has accredited 92 party-list
organizations for the May 2007 midterm elections. A recent poll
found that 11 party-list groups could win up to 17 seats in the
upcoming elections. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the
COMELEC must divulge the names of party-list candidates before the
upcoming elections so that the voters know who the representatives
would be.


¶12. Philippine elections historically have encountered significant
violence. In the 2004 elections, there were 249 incidents of

MANILA 00001467 003 OF 003

violence, with at least 148 known election-related deaths. In the
2001 mid-term election, there were 269 incidents of violence, with
111 known deaths. Election-related killings typically escalate in
the final days of the election. This year, the Philippine National
Police is deploying over 50,000 officers to patrol polling centers.
Septel following the elections will report on overall violence in
this year’s races; so far, according to a special police task
force, over 120 election-related incidents have already claimed the
lives of at least 90 people, including candidates, political
supporters, and security aides, while injuring another 89.


¶13. Philippine law permits one observer from each party, as well as
observers from various civil society organizations and accredited
foreign observers, to be present in polling stations during the
actual voting and the counting of the votes. The main civil society
group, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting – a
Catholic Church-based group but with a Memorandum of Understanding
with numerous Muslim groups to help cover Mindanao – claims to have
lined up at least one million volunteers this year. Most civil
society observers believe that it is extremely difficult to commit
fraud at the precinct level, but have expressed concerns that the
likelihood of cheating increases at each stage upward in the
counting process. To help curb fraud during these transfers, the
COMELEC has decided to post, for the first time, the precinct
tallies at the polling stations for 48 hours. Embassy will report
on any allegations of fraud after the May 14 elections.

Mission Monitoring and Reporting Plan

¶14. The Mission has organized a multi-section and multi-agency team
of 86 volunteer observers to monitor these elections, in
coordination with other Embassies from democratic partners.
Two-person teams — one American and one locally employed staff —
will cover 30 locations around the country, selected based on
factors such as national importance of the race, intensity of
political rivalry, and history of fraud. All locations have been
reviewed by RSO, and RSO personnel will accompany observer teams to
locations in Mindanao. Direct U.S. observation of the elections
will demonstrate to Philippine election workers and voters as well
as government officials that the U.S. has a strong interest in, and
strongly supports, a free and fair Philippine democratic process.
Embassy observers and spokespersons, however, will make clear if
asked that it is up to Philippine governmental and civil society
organizations to assess the actual outcomes.

¶15. Embassy will report on the conduct of the elections by cable
beginning on May 15. We will report results indicating the strength
of the government and opposition as they become available late in
May. We will report any unexpected developments as they happen.

USAID Projects to Support Clean Elections

¶16. Through USAID, the Mission is again supporting Philippine
efforts to conduct a fairer and better-run election, with the goal
of boosting confidence in the electoral process. Through a two-year
grant to the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES)
that began in September 2005, USAID has assisted the COMELEC to
produce an elections handbook and train its staff in various aspects
of election management–the first training staff has received since
the early 1990s. To help the COMELEC strengthen its currently low
credibility with the public, the IFES grant also supports the
COMELEC in conducting public outreach and engaging the media more
effectively to communicate the steps it has taken since 2004 to
safeguard this upcoming election.

¶17. USAID’s grant to IFES also has supported civil society
organizations to conduct voter education and monitor the electoral
process. This includes support to civil society in the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao, where IFES is assisting the Citizens’
Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, a consortium of mostly Muslim
non-governmental organizations, to conduct voter education and
monitor the polls on May 14. It also includes NGO initiatives to
monitor the tabulation process, which has been particularly
vulnerable to fraud in past elections. Other USAID support to NGOs
includes efforts to monitor campaign finance in selected electoral
contests and media reporting.



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