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Monday, May 14, 2007

Pampanga, Nueva Ecija under close watch by int’l observers
By Marna H. Dagumboy

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — International observers have been deployed to keep a close watch on the country’s electoral process, specifically in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, the two Central Luzon provinces where intense political rivalries have been noted.

Compact for Peaceful Elections-International Observers Mission Pampanga organizers said one team of foreign observers have been dispatched to Nueva Ecija while the other team will be monitoring four Pampanga towns including Apalit, Mabalacat, Floridablanca and Lubao.

The observers will be limited only to four Pampanga towns, based on the recommendation of the local Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). Allegations of fraud and massive cheating have been recorded in said towns in the past elections.

There is a high probability of cheating and massive fraud in those areas, as recommended by the local PPCRV, said Arnold Tarrobago, a local coordinator of the international observers.

Since the start of the election period, a total of 40 persons were killed and five others were injured in Luzon alone, according to statistics released by the Compact.

“Our mission is to monitor how the election process is going in the country,” Tarrobago said, adding that the objective of the documentary is not only limited to fraud and cheating but also violence.

The foreign observers will be roving in different polling precincts in Pampangas four towns and will stay there until the canvassing. We have to observe the process, from the transportation of ballot boxes until the last minute of canvassing and make reports and recommendations about what we observed, they said.

Cecilia Lero, a lady member of the team, said although they were briefed in Manila about allegations on overwhelming massive cheating and fraud and violence in the 2004 elections, she is expecting an orderly, peaceful and honest election.

Let us give Filipinos hope, said Lero, who is an independent researcher from New York USA, and currently working with the Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD).

Lero said the world is now paying attention on the electoral process in the Philippines. The outpouring of supports from other countries is a clear indication of defending democracy.

Although this is my first time as a delegate for electoral process, Olle Thorell, a member of the Swedish Parliament said, I expect a big difference in the election compared to countries in Northern Europe. I was surprised to note that the casting and counting of votes are still manual, in other countries the elections is made through a touch screen voting system, Thorell pointed out.

And if other countries like Brazil made voting easy through computers, why not in the Philippines? Thorell added.

Their reports will be submitted on May 18 to various organizations including the Diplomatic Crops, and business and civic groups and international court.