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[The Slingshot] International observers speak cynically of our elections

May 23, 2022 5:30 PM PHT Antonio J. Montalvan II

‘The results of the election are a worst-case scenario for the Filipino people and for the international community,’ writes one observer

What right have they to interfere with our elections? Why insult me? – I could almost hear Rodrigo Duterte cuss with usual narcissistic disdain on international opinion about the 2022 elections. We are not their colony – the Senate President once shot back when the US passed the Magnitsky Act.

Western countries adhere to the sacrosanct premise that elections are the ultimate expression of the sovereign will of the people. Here’s the more concrete context – elections in their countries hardly end up with protests on the electoral count because what you see is what you get. Many of them, in fact, make it literal by using transparent ballot boxes. But more than the collaterals, there is no vote-buying in their elections, no rallies where attendees are paid and bussed in, no election officials holding conflicts of interest positions because of their ties to the appointing power.

An International Observers Mission (IOM) actually began monitoring the conduct of the campaign as early as February 2022. The IOM came about upon the recommendation of the Independent International Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines (INVESTIGATE PH). Beginning first week of April, international observers were on the ground in Central Luzon, National Capital Region, Southern Luzon, Central Visayas, Western Visayas and Mindanao. The full month was sufficient for empirical data.

The Interim Report of the IOM was released last Thursday, May 19, and was disseminated globally.

The text of the report reads like one scathing comment after another. The appropriate response from us Filipinos should be to regard it as an invitation to reflect on how we stand before the community of nations. To respond to the report with profanity or even populist demagoguery will only bolster international doubts about the state of our democracy.

Among the highlights:

IOM Commissioner and Belgian Parliamentarian Séverine De Laveleye said, “These elections are extremely important to both the international community and the Filipino people, but sadly the outcome suggests a continued drift towards repression, state impunity, and state terror.”

“These Philippine National Elections 2022 were not free and fair. They were marred by a higher level of failure of the electronic voting system than ever before, along with rampant vote-buying, disturbing levels of state and military orchestrated red-tagging of candidates and parties, including numerous incidents of deadly violence,” said De Laveleye.

If our national leaders respond from their echo chambers, it will be sheer reductionism downgrading us into a pariah state not unlike North Korea. Observers recorded particular observations such as the following:

“The main opposition candidate Leni Robredo was strenuously red-tagged.”

“Another Presidential Candidate Leody De Guzman was the victim of a strafing attack at a campaign rally in Mindanao.”

“Many campaign activists were arrested on false charges.”

“Large numbers of voters were unable to cast their ballots.”

“Vote-buying was widespread.”

“Many found their names were no longer on the voter roll, and many had to trust that election officials would later put their marked ballot paper through a Vote Counting Machine (VCM) because of the breakdown of the voting machines.”

Under our present regime of disinformation disfiguring our consciousness as a people, I can already see how hate speech will be released unconstrained against the IOM by our predictable trolls. The following statements, for example:

“The May 9 election did not meet the standard of ‘free and fair’ because voters were denied access to reliable information, access to the voting places without intimidation, and a credible vote counting system.”

“The elections took place in the most repressive atmosphere seen since the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Duterte government has orchestrated state terror, marshaling the entire machinery of the state, including the judiciary, the military and police, the departments of education, social welfare, and local government, in a war on dissent which continued through the entirety of the election campaign.”

“The results of the election are a worst-case scenario for the Filipino people and for the international community. The [presumptive president], Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., says that his father’s legacy of dictatorship were ‘golden years.’  The Marcos family is estimated to have stolen more than $10 billion from the Philippines of which only a small portion was ever recovered. Bongbong and running mate, [presumptive vice president] Sara Duterte, represent a political marriage of the families of the worst human rights violators in Philippine history.”

“The electoral charade was based on a sea of disinformation.”

Apologists can freely take their turn debunking the statement. They can be reminded, however, that accountability of governments is not within their apologist turf. “This work is underway at the International Criminal Court, and in the United Nations Human Rights Council processes, and can be pursued in national jurisdictions with Magnitsky-style laws. There should be no hint of a blind-eye for continued human rights violations under Marcos Jr.,” concluded Rev. Chris Ferguson of the IOM. – Rappler.com

Antonio J. Montalván II is a social anthropologist who advocates that keeping quiet when things go wrong is the mentality of a slave, not a good citizen.

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