Cal-Nev Task Force Monitors Elections in Philippines
May 13, 2010
By The Rev. Felicisimo S. Cao
CA-NV Philippines Solidarity Task Force
The Philippines Solidarity Task Force of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church sent a five-member delegation to participate in the (3rd) People's International Observers' Mission (PIOM), to monitor the 2010 Philippine Elections, May 7-15, 2010.
The PIOM consists of 87 delegates from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, and Argentina. This is the biggest delegation ever to show support for, and solidarity with, the Filipino people.
The Cal-Nevada task force has joined other delegates from different teams that went to the areas of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Vizayas, and Mindanao. Jean Reynolds went to Surigao in Mindanao; Fran Smith went to the Payatas dump site area in Manila; Lindsey Kerr went to Bicol; Adrionne Beasley went to Pampanga, the home province of the incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; and I went to Tarlac, the home town of presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino.
The PIOM delegates observed the very first Automated Election System in the Philippines. Some of our observations and experiences are as follows:
The Filipino people were determined to vote in spite of some experiences of disenfranchisement, such as:
· too-long lines of people waiting to vote under the heat of the sun (at 37 degrees Celsius);
· no privacy for people filling in their ballots – which may have resulted in poll watchers' seeing who the voters were voting for, which may have intimidated some of the voters and influenced their vote;
· some registered voters did not find their names and were not informed where (to which precinct/polling place) they should go;
· allegations of vote buying;
· intimidation by the military and police to coerce some voters not to vote for progressive candidates;
· the military breaching the established perimeter (distance allowed) in the polling places;
· harassment of members of the International Observers' Mission;
· some of the Precinct Count Optical Scan Machines breaking down, which delayed some voters' voting – but some of the machines were fixed and voting continued while others were interrupted;
· incidents of violence, including exchanges of gunfire, based on political group rivalries.
The election process was not peaceful. As it involved a number of deaths, it does not conform to the standard of international elections.
However, we have observed that the public school teachers have been very committed to the task of ensuring a successful election process.
It has been the objective of the PIOM for the foreign presence to pressure the government to have democratic and clean elections. People have come to vote, and the PIOM intends to help the people protect their rights and their votes.
The members of the delegation have responded to the call of proclaiming the good news of justice and peace – and indeed, we are able to help in saving lives. We would be very glad to return to our annual conferences and give a report of the things we have observed.
The Philippines Solidarity Task Force will host a luncheon fellowship on June 18 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Sacramento. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
St. Paul's is located on the corner of J and 15th streets, at 1430 J Street.
Editor's Note: This article was submitted while the delegation is still in the Philippines. In addition to the Rev. Fel S. Cao, the members of the delegation are the Rev. Adrionne Beasley, representing the Conference Committee on Religion and Race; Jean Reynolds and Fran Smith of MFSAA; and Lindsey Kerr of USAPAN and Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley.