International observers say allegations of fraud a cause of concern
Written by Jojo C. Due
Friday, 18 May 2007

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO —- Members of a team of international observers deployed in Pampanga said they are in the province to observe the elections as they cited that allegations of fraud in Philippine elections are a cause of concern and something to worry about.

This was the statement issued at a press conference by the International Observers Mission for the 2007 mid-term elections organized by Compact for Peaceful Elections (Compact).

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

Compact organizer Arnold Tarrobago said the team in Pampanga is part of the 16-member team of international observers from nine countries to monitor the elections in five area sin the country: Bicol, Cotabato City, Nueva Ecija, Bacolod and Pampanga.

Four towns in President Arroyo’s home-province have been identified as among the areas to be monitored by the team of international observers. These are the towns of Lubao, Mabalacat, Apalit and Floridablanca which according to Compact have histories of incidents.

“These allegations are something to worry about. We are here merely to observe because of rumors of fraud and violence,” Lero said.

“We have been briefed on the various mechanisms 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 which they said has so many manual steps.

“We have no preconceptions but there are many ways to cheat. We are aware of allegations of cheating in the past elections,” he said.

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

Heddle said he will be making a documentary on the differences in the election process in the country.

“We will try to visit as many areas as possible and stay for the canvassing. We will take note of what we see here but will not interfere,” Heddle said.

Pampanga Provincial Police Director Sr. Supt. Keith Singian said the international observers will be given police escorts.

Their report will be presented to the media and the Diplomatic Corps on May 18 in Manila where the five groups will meet and consolidate their reports from the various areas they observed.

Apart from observing elections in the five areas in Pampanga, the international group will also observe the gubernatorial race which Lero said is interesting because of the personalities involved two dominant families against an outsider.

They also noted the more personal touch in the campaign in the Philippines compared to other countries and are surprised by the more open mudslinging, black propaganda and negative ads.