THE Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) is the first nationwide network of volunteer lawyers, law students and paralegals trained and deployed to monitor elections in the Philippines.
LENTE was formed when the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and electoral reform groups NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections), PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting), CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines), Alternative Law Groups of the Philippines, and the Ateneo Human Rights Center responded to the need for a citizens’ arm in the legal aspect of elections.
LENTE issued its first press release about the elections yesterday near noontime.
It had the head:
Vote buying, violation of campaign ban, unlawful electioneering, delay in voting due to technical glitches, and unfamiliarity with Comelec Resolutions taint the first hours of the May 9 elections
QUEZON CITY, Philippines: On the eve of Election Day, LENTE has already received reports of election violations and irregularities taking place in the voting centers.
Vote buying, as anticipated, continues to be the most prevalent election violation. In Lipa, for example, some residents were given sacks of rice accompanied by money in the amount of P1,500 – P3,000. Fingers of these voters are then stained with indelible ink upon receipt.
Our volunteers also observed that in some areas, there is widespread distribution of sample ballots, which is considered as an election offense. To some extent, sample ballots, in the form of tarpaulins, are posted just outside the voting centers, as in the case in Julian Felipe Elementary School, in Cavite. The distribution or posting of sample ballots, considered as campaign propaganda, constitutes a violation of the campaign ban.
Many precincts were observed to have opened late. The Ragayan Elementary School, in Iligan City, opened at 7 a.m. as the school was razed by fire the previous night. In Alabang Elementary School, voting started late as the BEIs thought that voting should start at 7 a.m. as originally set out in Comelec Resolution No. 10057. In certain detention centers like the New Bilibid Prison, the voting was also delayed because the SBEIs failed to comply with the strict requirements of the detention centers.
As in the previous elections, there were still reports of missing names in the voters’ list. In some precincts, voters, who were informed that they couldn’t vote for lack of biometrics, have expressed violent reactions inside the polling places, which caused delay in the proceedings.
There are reports of defective VCMs in Quezon City and Makati, failure to print receipts and paper jams, misdelivered or mismatched official ballots, which have likewise caused delay in the voting process.
As regards the pilot testing of Accessible Polling Places for Indigenous Peoples in Mindoro, LENTE received reports that there are cases of hakots, threats and intimidations being done against the Mangyans of Mindoro. In Occidental Mindoro, an incumbent official was said to have employed threats and intimidation against the Mangyans to vote in the regular polling precincts and not in the accessible polling places.
Because of the belated release of Comelec resolutions, notably on contingency measures, replacement ballots and emergency accessible polling places, confusion abound on the procedure to follow in the voting centers. Majority of the number of calls that LENTE hotlines received the first hours of Election Day were questions concerning these resolutions.
(At mid-afternoon, LENTE it issued its second news release.)
LENTE observed detainee voting concluding smoothly and an increase in deaths and election-related violence
QUEZON CITY, Philippines: The past few hours has not been much better from earlier today. LENTE observed the same election violations and irregularities that were earlier reported—vote-buying, violation of campaign ban, unlawful electioneering and malfunctioning of VCMs.
There is an alarming rise in the number of problems that has stalled the process of the election. In a number of polling places, the VCMs stalled in the middle of the process. In Lupang Pangako Elementary School, in Payatas, for example, the VCM was reported to have malfunctioned since 8 a.m.
There is also a worrisome increase in the number of missing names in the voters’ list, manifesting voter disenfranchisement. LENTE also observed several cases of unlawful entry by AFP, PNP and barangay officials [into the polling precincts].
The most unsettling trend, however, has been the increase in the number of reports involving violence and election related deaths.
Detainee voting in several areas finished earlier than the 2 p.m. deadline. LENTE volunteers reported that detainee voting went smoothly and without any irregularities, save for its delayed start.
LENTE, once again, calls on the citizens to continue watching out for election offenses and report them to LENTE through its hotlines. LENTE also calls for more prudence on the part of voters, political parties and accredited citizens’ arms in dealing with information, especially those that come from online sources.