Manila Bulletin Online
Two-hundred-nineteen foreigners from 12 countries observe today’s elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.

The United States has the most number of observers, with 86, followd by Japan, with 26; Britain, 11; Canada, 10; Australia, nine; and Spain, eight.

Singapore and France sent five observers each, while Sweden, Finland, and Germany have three participants each. New Zealand has only one participant.

Of the 12 foreign organizations asking for accreditation from the Comelec, 24 observers come from The Asia Foundation, nine from the ACF Compact, eight from the International Federation for Election System, and three each from the National Democratic Institute at the USAID Phils., and one each from the Freidrich Naumann and the European Commission.

Foreign participants of the Peoples’ International Observer’s Mission (IOM) set off yesterday for 10 election hotspots in the country to monitor and report the outcome of the midterm elections.

The foreign poll observers arrived in the Philippines last Saturday to help in safeguarding Filipino votes in regions where rampant harassment and electoral fraud have been reported.

The delegation of parliamentarians, lawyers, church leaders, members of the academe and media, artists, civil libertarians, professionals, students and human rights defenders from Canada, United States, Japan, Myanmar, Korea, Malaysia, Australia, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Scotland, Venezuela and Colombia will visit 10 areas nationwide to document electionrelated cases from May 13 to 16.

They will also coordinate with other national, local, and international monitoring groups such as Kontra Daya, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Teachers’ Hotline of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, and Lawyers’ Monitoring Groups for area visits and interviews with the local populace.

Mission initiator United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Bishop Elmer Bolocon said the IOM will be the litmus test of whether democracy is in the works in the Philippines.

Stefan Christoff, a 25-year-old Canadian journalist for The Montreal Mirror, the largest English weekly newspaper in Montreal, Canada, will join the team visiting urban poor communities in the Metro Manila.

This is Christoff’s first time to visit the Philippines and witness how the elections will unfold in “one of the most vote-rich, congested, and militarized urban areas in Metro Manila such as Tondo.”

Freda Guttman, a 73-year-old Canadian visual artist and activist, said this is her second visit to the Philippines since 1987, shortly after the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos.

She will observe the hotly-contested mayoralty race in Makati City, where opposition and administration figures are fighting for political control over the capital’s central business district.

Jessica Tulloch, an American citizen who has spent two years in Mindanao as an ecumenical development worker and has written about labor rights in the Philippines, will join the Mindanao team in Lanao del Sur.

“The foreign observers will also be going to areas with large concentrations or deployments of military troops,” Bolocon said.

He noted that these are also the same areas with the most number of documented cases of human rights violations and harassment against party-list organizations.

Among the delegates to observe the elections in heavily-militarized regions are American Presbyterian Minister Rev. Larry Emery, who will visit areas in Nueva Ecija; Australian university professor Gill Boehringer, who will venture into Compostela Valley; American Presbyterian Church official Becca Lawson, who will go to Sorsogon; and Belgian trade union activist Johan Foblets, who will visit Quezon Province.

Meanwhile, other delegates will focus on the electoral conduct in perceived bailiwicks of the Arroyo administration. Norwegian labor rights advocate Arnljot Ask will report on the situation in Pampanga, while American citizen Elizabeth Hendrickson will monitor the elections in Cebu. (With a report by Zaldy Comanda)


Foreign observers

go to GMA bailiwicks,

election ‘hot spots’


Waking up at the break of dawn, foreign participants of the Peoples International Observers Mission (Peoples IOM) today set off for 10 election hotspots around the Philippines to get an early start on the Election Day activities.

Barely resting after arriving in the Philippines yesterday, the 25 foreign observers from the Peoples’ IOM will be roving election hotspots from May 13, Sunday, to May 16, Wednesday, for visits and interviews with the local populace. They will be accompanied by a team composed of writers, photographers, filmmakers, and human rights workers.

For many delegates who are first-time visitors to the Philippines, the Peoples’ IOM will be their introduction to Philippine economic and social realities, said mission initiator Bishop Elmer M. Bolocon of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

3 international observers assign to monitor, report on Pampanga elections

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga -Three members of a 16-man international observers group were deployed in Pampanga yesterday to observe and monitor the conduct of the polls.

The team of foreign observers deployed in Pampanga is composed of Olle Thorell, a member of the Swedish Parliament belonging to the Social Democratic Party; independent researcher Cecilia Lero of the US; and Jim Heddle, documentary video and radio producer, educator and community and international organizer.

Organizer Compact for Peaceful Elections (Compact) presented the team at a press conference held yesterday at the Social Action Center of Pampanga (Sacop) yesterday.

Compact officer Arnold Tarrobago said the team in Pampanga is part of the 16-man team of international observers from nine countries to monitor the elections in five areas in the country, namely Bicol, Cotabato City, Nueva Ecija, Bacolod and Pampanga.

The Pampanga team will monitor elections in four towns in President Arroyo’s home-province Lubao, Mabalacat, Apalit and Floridablanca which according to Compact have histories of political untoward incidents.

“Allegations of fraud are something to worry about. We are here to observe such allegations because of rumors of such incidents,” Lero said.

“We have been briefed on various mechanisms being used for fraud. If we do find fraud, it would be a great opportunity for President Arroyo to take initiatives to institute reforms. This would strike a chord to eliminate these cases in the future,” Lero said.

She added that the elections here should not only be seen as a black and white issue but as a more complicated situation between candidates and the voting public, citing that the dire economic situation of some voters contribute to vote-buying and fraud.

Thorell said they are here to monitor the election proper and the canvassing of votes. “We have received allegations of cheating in past elections,” he said.

“We want the people here, as well as those in our countries and around the world, to be aware of the situation here and that it is being watched and the world cares. People around the world have a right to be safe and not be cheated and be given a fair chance to choose their leaders,” he said. (Fred Roxas)