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Cablegate: Nationwide Village Elections See High Turnout And

VZCZCXRO3817
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #3576 3040829
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 310829Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8786
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS MANILA 003576

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL RP
SUBJECT: NATIONWIDE VILLAGE ELECTIONS SEE HIGH TURNOUT AND
LOWER VIOLENCE

REF: MANILA 3547

1. (U) Summary: High voter turnout of between 70-75 percent
and lower levels of violence than in previous elections
marked the Philippines' October 29 nationwide village
elections. Voters in nearly 42,000 districts elected over
300,000 councilors who will manage day-to-day government
affairs at the neighborhood level. An equal number of "youth
councilors," aged 15 to 18, were elected separately to
represent youth concerns within the village leadership
structures. The elections were more peaceful and orderly
compared to previous election seasons, and only a relative
handful of villages were unable to carry out the vote.
However, the elections were not free of violence or fraud.
The police are actively investigating 29 election-related
deaths and 24 injuries, many of which occurred on election
day and the day before the polls opened. End Summary.

2. (U) More than 35 million voters went to the polls on
October 29 to elect local-level officials in their
neighborhoods and villages, or barangays (reftel). Voter
turnout was impressive -- perhaps as high as 75 percent of
the 51 million registered voters. Acting Elections
Commission Chairman Rex Borra speculated that the turnout
exceeded that of the 2002 village elections (68 percent), and
may even surpass the May 2007 midterm Senate and
Congressional elections (73 percent). While these are
non-party elections in which candidates did not run under the
banner of political parties, there was national political
interest in the outcome as the local council leaders play a
key role in getting out the vote during Congressional and
Presidential polls. Local council members also receive some
benefits for their service, including a small stipend (from
$75 to $450 per month), health insurance and free education
tuition for their children at local public schools.

3. (U) As in years past, the elections in some districts
were messy and even violent. The Philippine National Police
reported 53 election-related violent incidents since the
start of the campaign period on September 27, including 29
fatalities. The majority of the 29 deaths were candidates or
incumbent village officials. These estimates are
considerably lower when compared to the 2002 village
elections that left 75 people dead and 69 others wounded.

4. (U) There were also reports of vote-buying, especially in
depressed neighborhoods of metro-Manila and in the Visayas,
as well as reports of "flying voters" (a Philippine practice
in which candidates hire people to vote under fictitious
names in precincts other than their own). The Commission on
Elections declared a failure of elections in a few dozen
precincts because of reported violence at the polling
stations, or where poll workers failed to report to work
because of intimidation. The majority of reported failures
were in Mindanao, including three towns in the Autonomous
Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Reports of fraud renewed
calls for automation by the 2010 presidential elections.

5. (U) Civil-society monitoring groups were present in most
precincts and played an active roll as poll watchers
throughout election day. Henrietta de Villa, chairperson of
the largest poll-watching group, highlighted a "noticeable
improvement compared to the May 14 midterm elections," citing
fewer voter complaints and decreased levels of violence. The
Commission on Elections is expected to proclaim the winners
within a few days, except in villages where the results were
challenged or the Commission declared a failure of the
election.

6. (SBU) Comment: While these elections were not flawless,
the high voter turnout demonstrates the Philippines' -- and
more importantly, its citizens' -- commitment to the
democratic process. The overwhelming majority of the 42,000
villages had few, if any, problems on election day. While
violence and fraud did affect some districts, these village
elections were clearly a step towards a freer, fairer, and
more peaceful electoral process.
KENNEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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