18 05 2007

SULU — A volunteer lawyer of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) has reported massive election fraud and violence in Jolo, Indanan, and other municipalities in Sulu.

“On election day, I visited a cluster of precincts in Barangay Pasil in Indanan, and was taken aback by the massive cheating in the area.  Earlier that day, a voter had been shot dead by a policeman who refused the voter entry to the precinct,” Attorney Raissa Jajurie, LENTE’s sole lawyer in the island province, said.

According to her, many of the precincts were conducting business behind closed doors.  “There was a military guard right outside the door.  When I tried to get in, I was told by the guard that I could not come in even after I showed him my canvassing ID,” she said.

Jajurie said that she transferred to another building where she was able to enter one of the precincts.  I was shocked to see BEIs (board of election inspectors) writing on the ballots which had already been thumb marked.  They were writing the same list of candidates on each of the ballots.  A ballot box was even open (without a padlock), while ballots were being placed inside” the LENTE lawyer said.  She also pointed out that a man armed with a bolo stood guard near the BEI while cheating was taking place.

The lawyer said that she witnessed a similar incident in many other precincts.  “PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) was there, but there was so much fear that I could not blame the watchers if they did nothing,” Jajurie said.  She said that the son of the politician whose name was being written on the controversial ballots also was present in the vicinity.  “He was going around the school,” she added.

Jajurie reported that cheating took place in yet another school.  While the BEIs were not writing names of candidates on the ballots, they did not practice vote secrecy as they allowed unauthorized persons in the rooms.  “There were people ‘assisting’ the voters,” she said.

“What happened in Sulu is a blatant disrespect for the electoral process.  Our group of lawyers will discuss the legal actions which will be taken to address the situation,” LENTE Co-convener and Ateneo Human Rights Center Executive Director Atty. Carlos P. Medina, Jr., said. “We are calling on COMELEC to immediately investigate these incidents”.




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