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Philippine poll irregularities 'becoming more brazen'

Watchdog says votes are being bought openly

Philippine poll irregularities 'becoming more brazen'

Henrietta de Villa, head of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (Photo by Jimmy Domingo) reporter, Manila

May 15, 2013

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A Church-based election watchdog today said fraud, including vote buying and vote selling, was "bolder and on a bigger scale" in this year's midterm election compared to past polls.

"[Politicians] did everything to entice people to vote for them," said Henrietta de Villa, chairperson of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

De Villa said "vote buying" included distributing money, rice, food packs, mobile phones and even education scholarships to voters in exchange for votes.

"In all areas, the public knows who the candidates who are engaged in vote buying are, but no one gets arrested because there’s a need for material evidence," the former ambassador to the Vatican said.

De Villa blamed poverty, especially in the countryside, for the "culture of money politics."

An international observers’ mission organized by the group Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections also reported incidents of vote buying today, in areas that they monitored.

"The majority of those interviewed openly admitted that vote buying is happening, including paying people not to cast their votes in areas controlled by incumbent candidates and political clans," said Arnold Tarrobago, the group's national coordinator.

The observers also noted that one common "but extremely disturbing issue" they witnessed concerned the public’s right to a secret ballot.

"In many polling precincts, there was a deficiency of ballot secrecy folders," Tarrobago said.

The foreign observers noted that the election was generally peaceful and orderly, but they were quick to say the orderly conduct could not hide serious irregularities and other problems that they observed.

"The problems we saw and documented, unless properly addressed by concerned government agencies and stakeholders, will undermine an electoral process reasonably credible by international standards," the group said in a statement.

Monday's election was seen as a boost to President Benigno Aquino's reform agenda, although the victory of graft-tainted rivals, including former president Gloria Arroyo, in Congress raised alarm. 

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