1996-06-13 00:00:00

Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila threatened to call for a work stoppage if government officials do not ensure credible elections.

At a Mass to launch the People´s Action for Clean Elections (PACE) June 10, Cardinal Sin said that if legislators do not listen or become blind to the truth, "in God´s name, I will ask workers to stop their work."

He added that he will also ask the public "to join me on the streets in a concerted effort to insure that our election process be credible."

At this, the assembly of over 1,000 clergy, Religious, government officials, and laypeople broke out in applause.

President Fidel Ramos expressed his support for the new movement and sent Ruben Torres, presidential secretary, and Gabriel Claudio, presidential assistant for political affairs, to represent him at the launching.

After the Mass, former president Corazon Aquino told the assembly, "We are calling for greater citizen involvement in the electoral process that is at the heart of our hard won democracy."

She added that the people somehow come away from elections "feeling that some things are not done right."

PACE, a coalition of groups from various sectors, was organized to address the problems affecting the electoral process and hopes to reform the electoral system through advocacy and education, Aquino said.

She urged Filipinos to be more vigilant in guarding ballots from the May 1995 senatorial elections, which are still being recounted in some areas.

According to Aquino, the ballots can still be corrupted to favor certain candidates and cover up the crimes committed by certain electoral officials.

"We must see to it that the culprits in the ´dagdag-bawas´ (add-subtract) scheme are pinpointed," she said, "and if found liable, prosecuted."

The scheme, in which votes are deducted from one candidate and given to another, was uncovered when former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who lost his bid for reelection, lodged a protest calling for a recount of votes.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has confirmed that vote-padding occurred in certain areas during the May 1995 elections.

Cardinal Sin said that the "demons that bedevil" the election process must be exorcised, and suggested that people begin with prayer, fasting and continued appeals to legislators for reforms.

Aquino called on the people to be vigilant and "blow the whistle on any and all threats to the democracy we worked and sacrificed so hard to establish."

"Our task now is to disseminate information and educate the people about the elections in 1998 ... so as not to have a repeat of cheating," Audie Lavador, chairperson of the Urban Poor Task Force, told UCA News.

Lavador said the group, composed of about 10,000 families in Manila and neighboring cities, joined PACE because "we feel we have been cheated."

Jesuit Father Romeo Intengan said that the electoral process is important for true democracy, especially for the empowerment of the masses.

The poor cannot come to power with an electoral process subject to perversion, coercion, bribery and deceit, he said.

Bernardo Prado, chairman of the COMELEC, who was also present at the launching, declined to comment on allegations of fraud against his office.

Others who attended were former senators Pimentel and Agapito Aquino, Senator Gloria Macapal Arroyo, Justice Secretary Teofisto Guingona and Mayors Alfredo Lim of Manila and Jejomar Binay of Makati.


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