Gut instinct, I knew that the 2019 Philippine midterm elections that took place on Monday, May 13th would be a shitshow. But I hoped for the best anyway. The day after the elections, I woke up to check social media and was disappointed and angry but worse…I wasn’t at all surprised.
WHY WERE THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS SO IMPORTANT?
These elections were a crucial battleground because the Senate is one of the only governing bodies that President Rodrigo Duterte didn't have control over (he already has Congress and the Supreme Court). And 12 of the 24 seats were decided. Even though these elections had no effect on the national leadership, they were considered a referendum to his administration. The big fear is that with Duterte winning two-thirds vote in the Senate, he will be able to consolidate his power and gain complete control of the government.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) recently put out a list of reasons why the elections were so important to the Philippines and they included:
the possibility of another dictatorship and nationwide martial law
the possibility of charter change, which is another way of saying constitutional reform (e.g. doing away with term limits for politicians)
the possibility of federalism, like the removal of an anti-political dynasty law and more foreign control of the country’s many natural resources
more anti-poor, anti-people policies getting passed
CHEATING, ELECTION CODE VIOLATIONS, TECHNICAL MALFUNCTIONS, AND VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT
The midterm election's credibility is now at stake. Below are the most egregious examples of fraud and cheating that took place all over the country on Monday, May 13th. Let it be known: these were the complete opposite of free and honest elections.
Election watchdog group known as Kontra Daya received reports of death threats, harassment and red-tagging all over the country. The watchdog also reported more than 288 incidents and according to them, the violations this time are even worse than the 2016 elections. The most common complaints were vote counting machine failures and errors.
The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has just admitted that 600 machines have been replaced because of malfunction. COMELEC is being called on to explain why their transparency server, which is supposed to provide election results to the public in real time wasn't updated for several hours. This is different from the elections in 2013 and 2016 when vote results were provided to the public all day long as they came in. Now, the government has spent billions of taxpayer money to automate the voting process, which is supposed to be the quick and transparent way of counting votes. They had 3 years to work on this process, which is plenty of time for them to get it right. So, the added problem to this lack of transparency in vote counting is that it creates disenfranchisement and discouragement of voters due to widespread delays and machine errors.
Philippine National Police or the PNP, passed out fake newspapers, which they called tabloids, that vilified progressive party-list groups by saying that they were fronts for communism. This took place at Geronimo Elementary School in Sampaloc, Manila, Siquijor, Palawan and Cebu.
Death threats were sent to members and supporters of opposition candidates in the form of text messages.
In Caloocan City, Makabayan volunteer Manuel Ferrer received death threats and was tagged as a supporter of the NPA.
In Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan Valley provinces, Makabayan coordinators received death threats from four cell phone numbers, and those numbers were reported in The Northern Dispatch and Bulatlat.
Agnes Mesina, who is a regional coordinator and national council member of Makabayan, said their leaders and members received messages threatening them not to vote or something bad would happen to their families.
Duterte spent government funds to support candidates that are loyal to his administration and then went on record to say that buying votes is an integral part of Philippine elections.
Voting machines were rigged. When several people voted for progressive party-list candidates, their receipts showed a different name.
There was intimidation of voters at several polling centers. These include telling voters in BayBay and Leyte that the receipts can reveal who voted for progressive party-list groups. Supporters were then told they could be tailed to their homes and become targets of the Synchronized Enhanced Management Police Operations (SEMPO), which is the operation responsible for the deaths of the Negros 14.
In Baguio City, police station 5 shared false information on its Facebook page about the supposed disqualification of Makabayan Party-lists.
Anakpawis Regional Coordinator Isabelo Adviento said that elements of 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army openly campaigned against Neri Colmenares and other party-list members of the progressive Makabayan bloc.
In Cagayan Valley, poll watchers of Colmenares were barred from entering the precinct.
In Metro Manila, it was reported that almost 300 people had been arrested due to vote-selling and buying in five different cities leading up to the actual election day.
"Let the mistakes of this election season serve as lessons on how we assess the political landscape in our society. With issues such as federalism, tax reform, environmental degradation, and the country’s relationship with China poised to become even hotter in the next 3 years, we need to be even more vigilant than ever. We need to hold our government officials accountable for their actions." (John Leo, Rappler)
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Activism changes you—you can’t go back to who you were before, not when you’ve been exposed to the realities of the masses and the struggle for genuine change. (Anri Ichimura, Scout Mag PH)
Join Malaya Movement actions across the nation. For a list of events, visit Malaya Movement’s website.
Take a selfie with a message: “I support democracy in the Philippines. No to electoral fraud!!” “Fight electoral fraud! I stand for transparency and democracy!” Make sure to tag @malayamovement.
Make phone calls to the Philippine Consulate/Embassy. Express your concerns on fraudulent elections and demand an end to political repression. See the list of actions for details, including a detailed script for your phone call.
If you are in the DC/Baltimore area on May 17th, join us at the Embassy of the Philippines in D.C. at 6:30 PM.