Int’l observers take notice of Pampanga

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk

Posted date: May 15, 2007

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The international community has taken notice of elections in Pampanga, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s home province, where a priest, an incumbent governor linked to graft and a board member linked to illegal gambling are seeking the province’s highest post.

The group of international observers Olle Thorell, Cecilia Lero and Jim Heddle, all members of the Compact International Observers Mission, started its work on the day Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto issued a pastoral statement expressing “serious alarm” about the reported incidents of vote-buying and vote-selling two weeks ahead of May 14.

Aniceto urged voters to “express this option [of rejecting evil and choosing the good] more concretely by rejecting vote buyers and their money.”

Aniceto’s pastoral letter was read in Roman Catholic churches in Pampanga on Sunday. A Kapampangan version has been distributed in communities.

Swedish parliament member Thorell, University of New York law center researcher Lero, and documentary producer Heddle got a glimpse of the final campaign activities of candidates. May 12 was the last day of the 45-day local campaign period.

They were scheduled to monitor the Pampanga elections until May 16.

Compact said the mission was organized to “exert political pressures on the parties and candidates to refrain from resorting to violence and fraud during the elections and to get international support for the agenda of reforming the Philippine electoral system.”