International Election Observation Mission
Philippines National and Local Elections 2010
Report date: May 13, 2010
The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) deployed 39 long-term and short-term observers from 13 countries to Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon to observe and assess the Philippines 2010 National and Local Elections. The following is a summary of the mission’s main findings, which will be published later in a detailed report.
The May 10 election was the first ever nationwide automated election in the history of the Philippines. The election was widely viewed as a potential watershed in the Philippines’ democratic consolidation, in light of a history of elections marred by electoral fraud and irregularities.
ANFREL deployed 5 long-term observers to: Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon from April 18 to May 11. In addition, 34 short-term observers were deployed to Basilan, Zamboanga, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao, Davao, Abra, Illocos Norte, Samar, Bacolod, Pampangga, Masbate, Lanao del Sur, and Isabela from May 5 to 11. On polling day, ANFREL observers covered approximately 500 clustered precincts, including 207 in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
Extensive voter education was done by NGOs using mainstream media, face to face meetings, PSAs, and posters appeared reach voters all over the country. Citizens in the National Capital Region (NCR) and provinces generally seem to be well aware of the election and polling center locations. Despite this, most people did not have contact with the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine for practice. It was evident that voters in rural baranguys considerably less voter education. Voter education at the polling stations was prevalent on May 10. However, even if people know how to vote, many appeared apprehensive about the reliability of the new AES.
Despite the late start in some localities, and significant resource and infrastructure challenges in the far-flung areas, the election administration should be commended for their substantial efforts to improve public confidence on this important aspect of the automated election, especially with the ability of voters to check their names and their respective precincts online. The other important feature of the process that was introduced was the relatively simpler procedure for both absentee and overseas voters. The early detection of some of the ghost polling stations by the COMELEC could be considered an excellent achievement to curb the problem of multiple, fake and flying voting.
However, the voter lists must be considered incomplete as a number of inadequacies raised concerns regarding accuracy and inclusiveness. Although verification safeguards did exist, incidences of multiple registrations occurred. An efficient administrative measure to register voters is to combine the preparation of a voters roll with the civil registration and/or the issuance of a national ID card. Linking civil registration with voter registration is costly, but on the other hand duplication of workload for the electoral commission and institutions dealing with civil registry can be avoided and the registry can be used for a number of other purposes. Furthermore, incomplete voter registration, where pictures and thumbprints were missing, must be rectified in for future elections.
The campaign expenses for this election were observed to be costlier than previous elections. The entire nation seemed painted with multi-color posters, banners, pamphlets, leaflets and other literature. Nevertheless, several candidates stated that they had insufficient funds to prepare campaign materials and organize events. It was noted that state administrative resources were used in support of some candidate whereas other candidates did not benefit similarly. In a few instances, some candidates used the state-owned establishments for the purpose of their campaign. Such examples underlined the ongoing concern that there is a lack of distinct separation between the state administration and party structures at the apex of the election campaign and which was abused by incumbents.
Even before the campaign period began, a lot of candidates broke the rules right away. Though the campaign period for candidates for national positions such as president, vice-president, and senators was from February 9 to May 10, 2010, there were already a number of candidates showing up on TV advertisements before that date. Similarly, for local candidates, the beginning of their campaign period was from March 26 to May 8, 2010 but there were already a number of local candidates who had their tarpaulins, posters and banners on the streets, even during Christmas season. They may not have explicitly said to vote for them but it was a way for them to be visible to the public since the election period was just around the corner. COMELEC seemed powerless to stop this, or simply lacked the political will. Even when NGOs pointed out this issue, there was still no solution.
Political hopefuls peacefully drove in motorcades, organized last-minute mass meetings often with free distribution of food, drink, shirts and other goods to win over undecided voters around Manila and in the provinces. Similarly, most of the precincts throughout the country were full of campaign materials, leaflets and pamphlets even on the Election Day and in many instances, the posters, banners and leaflets were found hung on top of each other thereby violating the campaign code of conduct. The widespread use of children in the election campaign and on Election Day characterized a distinct but an unacceptable aspect of the campaign. Vote buying continues to be a serious issue in Philippine elections. ANFREL observed that the going rate for a voter is between 300-1000 pesos.