Residents walk past election campaign posters near a polling center in Manila, the Philippines, Friday, May 6, 2022.
Credit: AP Photo/Aaron Favila
This month’s presidential elections in the Philippines were far from ‘free and fair’ due to widespread vote buying, politically motivated violence and serious loopholes, according to a group of international election observers. of the electoral process.
In an interim report released yesterdaythe International Observer Mission (IOM), which was sponsored by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippinesfound that the May 9 elections “took place in the most repressive atmosphere since the days of dictator Ferdinand Marcos” – it is no coincidence that the father of this year’s winning candidate, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Among these were unprecedented failures in the country’s electronic voting system and problems with voter rolls that prevented many voters from casting their ballots. IOM also noted “a higher level of blatant vote buying, a disturbing level of ‘red flagging’ – in which members of the opposition are publicly accused of links to communist insurgents -” and some number of incidents of lethal violence”.
“These elections are extremely important both for the international community and for the Filipino people,” IOM Commissioner and Belgian Parliamentarian Severine De Laveleye said in a statement. Press release accompanying the release of the report, “but unfortunately the result suggests a continued drift towards repression, state impunity and state terror”.
The IOM claims represent a narrative deeply at odds with the triumphant campaign narrative of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who according to election data of the Electoral Commission, or Comelec, won 31.1 million votes, more than double the 14.8 million won by its main challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo. Marcos’ vice-presidential running mate, Sara Duterte-Carpio, mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines and daughter of current president Rodrigo Duterte, won by an equally decisive margin.
IOM report, based on campaign and voting observations in Central Luzon, South Luzon, Central Visayas, Western Visayas and Mindanao, as well as the capital Manila, documents a campaign of intimidation during the three-month campaign period. This included cases of “political assassinations, shootings, kidnappings, death threats, political arrests, harassment and surveillance of candidates and supporters, mass red-flagging, widespread vote buying, media manipulation and repression, fake news and harassment of journalists by the Marcos campaign.
IOM links them to outgoing President Duterte’s six-year tenure, which has been marked by a bloody ‘war on drugs’ that has claimed several thousand lives, as well as politically motivated arrests, such as that of Senator Leila of Lima. . Under Duterte, say the report’s authors, “the entire machinery of the state, including the judiciary, military and police, departments of education, social services and local government, was mobilized to this war on dissent”.
“Given that Marcos-Duterte UniTeam has praised the notorious policies of the current President Duterte,” the report concludes, “the international community needs to focus more on the human rights situation in the Philippines, as it will only ‘get worse from here’.
It’s unclear whether the allegations would have changed the eventual winner, given the huge margin of victory Marcos and Duterte managed to secure. But it hints at how much Philippine democracy, which has always been warped by the wealth and power of provincial political dynasties and widespread corruption, has deteriorated during Duterte’s six years in power.