Updated: May 12, 2016 09:37 AM GMT
Members of the International Observers Mission for the May 9 Philippine elections hold a media briefing in Manila on May 12. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
The church-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting played a "crucial role" in the successful conduct of the Philippine national elections on May 9, foreign election observers said.
"The PPCRV's quick count advances the interests of an active and vigilant citizenry," said Leif Petterson, a member of Sweden's parliament who was part of the international observers mission.
The monitoring group praised the "faceless, nameless heroes behind the election" who were "visible and active" in all the places the observer mission visited.
The mission also "recognized" the dedication of Filipino teachers, women, and civil society groups during the elections.
"The role of women who served as board of election inspectors was essential," said Edwin Batongbacal, a Filipino-American member of the mission.
"Despite being overworked and underpaid, [the teachers] put their lives on the line to protect the public's right to suffrage," he said.
Philippine elections have a history of being plagued by deadly violence.
The council, an initiative of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, deployed some 700,000 volunteers to 92,509 polling precincts nationwide in this year's elections.
On Election Day, a council volunteer was killed in an ambush in the southern city of Pagadian in Mindanao while taking a copy of election returns to the poll watchdog's headquarters.
In Sultan Kudarat province, also in Mindanao, the council withdrew its volunteers after a truckload of armed men brought in voters and grabbed ballots from elections officials.
In Cotabato City, the group also pulled out volunteers from six polling stations when armed men turned up.
Armed men chased one volunteer who took a video clip of their activities.
The 15 foreign observers from different countries said they will submit a report and their recommendations to the Philippines' Commission on Elections at the end of their mission.
"We encountered cases of vote-counting machines breaking down, vote buying and selling, election-related violence, and other irregularities," said German observer Anushka Ruge.
"But generally [the election] was credible and in order," she told ucanews.com.
The group expressed admiration for the Filipino people who went out and voted "despite the long queues, glitches, and irregularities."
"The 81-percent turnout is astonishing," said Ruge. "It is a testament to the Filipino people's strong commitment to electoral democracy."