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Priscillia Lefebvre, of CUPE local 4600 in Ottawa participated as an observer during the national elections in the Philippines. Lefebvre, along with Member of Parliament Don Davies, and 21 other Canadians (representing churches, unions, academics and lawyers) monitored the elections in the Philippines in May 2010.

The goal of the People’s International Observers Mission (PIOM) was to ensure that voters are protected and free to vote according to their conscience and that democratic processes were respected.

Civil society groups in the Philippines helped organize the international observers’ mission including churches, human rights advocates, lawyers and other non-governmental organizations

Here are some of Lefebvre observations:

Even though the first automated elections resulted in the naming of now President Noynoy Aquino, they failed on many levels. The promise of the automated system was to ensure a clean and fair election; however, vote-buying, violence, fraud, and general voter intimidation were clearly present throughout these elections.
Due to the shortage of PCOS (automated voting) machines, precincts were consolidated resulting in anywhere from 600 to 1000 voters lining up to cast their vote on a single machine. Voters lined up in the intense heat and waited for hours on end without access to water or washrooms as the voting process was delayed in many areas due to PCOS machines malfunctions. Precincts were overcrowded and did not allow for any kind of confidentiality as ballots were being filled out in the open as party list poll watchers looked on. 

The team I was part of was sent to Quezon Province where we experienced a persistent military and police presence armed with assault rifles. We observed several pieces of negative propaganda slandering progressive party list candidates and we observed political campaigning inside the voting precincts and rampant technical failures of PCOS machines. 

The International mission watched several ballots be rejected by the PCOS machines resulting in voter disenfranchisement.

Video: Invisible Voter? A woman in Tondo, Manila was disappointed upon learning from the BEI that a vote from her have already been cast even before she herself laid her hands on a ballot. 

Observers sent to other areas, more specifically, Lanao in Davao Del Sur witnessed beatings and open gunfights. Deaths were reported as a result the shootings and, in another area, one voter died of heat stroke.  

In all of this it was impressive to see that Filipinos were still adamant to cast their vote for change. The persistence of the voters and determination to have their voice heard exhibited an extraordinary political will. 

After having asked many Filipinos if they expect to see an end to the oppression of activists and labour organizers, or any real social-political change to occur as a result of these elections, the answer was a resounding ‘no’. Many expressed that the struggle leading up the elections, in many ways, has just begun. Social progressives are now preparing themselves to continue the fight for genuine land-reform, the end to devastating privatization of essential social services, to fight for the end of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and persecution of activists, as well as to continue to defend the human rights and labour rights of the Filipino people. 

News articles:
  • Poll machines show 153M May 10 voters, The Daily Tribune, May 24, 2010. 
  • Philippines extends voting period, violence kills eight, Earth Times, May 10, 2010.