Philippine mid-term elections pass off generally peaceful

Catholic bishops express disappointment over Senate results that showed strong support for Duterte
Philippine mid-term elections pass off generally peaceful

Voters cast their vote in a polling station in the capital Manila on May 13 for the Philippine midterm elections. Authorities described the elections as "generally peaceful". (Photo by Bernice Beltran)

Despite reports of vote counting machines not functioning, incidents of "vote-buying," and grenade explosions, the Philippines’ midterm elections on May 13 were "generally peaceful."

Concerns were raised over alleged cases of electoral fraud in some areas due to delays in the transmission of poll results and technical glitches, but authorities said these were addressed.

People attributed perceived irregularities to the malfunctioning of many vote-counting machines.

The church-based Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, however, said these were "usual problems" encountered during elections like missing names and malfunctioning machines.

"They are being addressed," said Agnes Gervacio, media director of the poll watchdog.

In the provinces, although the conduct of the elections was generally peaceful, there were reports of rampant "vote buying."

Bishop Crispin Varquez of Borongan in the central Philippines said these incidents only showed that "we need to educate our people."

"Elections in [Eastern Samar province] were generally peaceful but vote buying remained a big problem, even became worse," said the prelate.

He said a lot of people seemed to have "distorted values," seeing what is wrong as right "and those who do good are seen as bad."

The Philippine military said the elections were "generally peaceful," except for some "very isolated" incidents.

Military spokesman Col. Noel Detoyato said there were areas where it was anticipated the elections would be marred by widespread violence, "but it did not happen."

He said there was "very minimal breaches of the peace or disorder."

There were last minute attempts to disrupt the elections but these were immediately addressed by security forces," said the military official.

 Church-based volunteers assist voters during the Philippine midterm elections on May 13. (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)

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Poll results disappoint prelates

Several Catholic bishops have expressed disappointment at the result of the elections that showed administration candidates dominating the polls, especially the senatorial races.

"For me and most of the bishops, clergy and religious and Catholic lay leaders, this fact is very disappointing," said Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon.

Before the elections, several bishops expressed a preference for opposition candidates, saying the people need to elect "independent-minded" senators.

"The results of the elections show that a majority of Filipinos are satisfied with Duterte," said Bishop Bastes.

This year's elections were touted as a litmus test on the performance and popularity of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

"We must admit that our people still place their trust and future with the present administration," Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said.

Bishop Santos said he only hopes that the new senators will live up to the expectations of the people.

"Given a fresh mandate, let us pray that they will live up to our expectations and we will not be sorry we have elected them," said the prelate.

"Our people have spoken. It is their will, and we have to respect it," he said as he called on Filipinos to work together for the country’s peace and prosperity.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan appealed for unity after the elections.

"Let us all move on, and hope that the elections did not destroy our personal relationships with one another," he said.

"Peace is attainable when we are all friends," said the prelate, adding that winning candidates should practice "honesty and integrity."

Bishop Valentin Dimoc of Bontoc-Lagawe called for a start to "nation-building." He said the voters, especially the youth, have spoken.

"We will now know how they voted for their future," said the prelate.

At least 10 million of the estimated 60 million voters this year were aged between 18 and 24, while 23 million voters were aged between 25 and 39.

"Their number could have been a game changer in our society," said the bishop.

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