TENS of thousands of security forces fanned out across the country Sunday on the eve of national polls, following a bitter and deadly election campaign plagued by rampant vote-buying and intimidation.
“Vote-buying is everywhere,” Commission on Elections [Comelec] Commissioner Luie Guia told reporters.
“We are receiving reports that everything is being used to buy votes, not only money. It could be [plastic] basins, groceries.”
In just one instance, political operators and some candidates in a Bohol town went from house to house distributing cash or groceries, he said.
To try to check vote buying, the election commission has banned mobile phones in polling places. This is so people cannot photograph their ballots to prove to vote-buyers that they cast their ballots for the right candidates.
At the national level, presidential and vice presidential rivals are also accusing each other of trying to rig the elections.
President Benigno Aquino III has warned the favorite to succeed him, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, is a dictator in the making and will bring terror to the nation.
Duterte has in turn accused Aquino’s administration of planning “massive cheating” to ensure that his preferred successor, former Interior secretary Manuel Roxas II, wins.
Followers of Duterte, who has admitted links to vigilante death squads in Davao that rights groups say have killed more than 1,000 people, have warned of a “revolution” if he loses.
Meanwhile, at least 15 people have died in election-related violence, according to national police statistics.
In the latest suspected case, a grenade blast killed a nine-year-old girl behind the house of a powerful political warlord in the strife-torn province of Maguindanao late on Saturday, said Chief Inspector Jonathan del Rosario.
The girl’s death has not yet been included in the tally, although it likely will be, according to Del Rosario, spokesman for a police election-monitoring task force in Manila.
“This looks like it is election-related but we have a process we have to follow,” he said.
Del Rosario said 90 percent of the nation’s police force, or about 135,000 officers, were already on election-related duty and had been authorized to carry their assault rifles. He said they were guarding polling and canvassing places and manning road checkpoints.
On Sunday night, President Aquino reminded voters they had a sacred duty on Election Day.
“We will be showing the spirit of our democracy. Each of us, regardless of status in life, has a single vote, to directly elect our next leaders. This will be the totality of our collective decisions about the future of our country,” Aquino said in Filipino.
He added that he was honored to be a part of the peaceful transition of power under a democracy.
Aquino also reminded voters it is against the law to campaign on election day, “so please do not wear paraphernalia.”
He also urged voters to go home “quietly” after the vote.
He also urged the public, in monitoring election results, to make sure they have a credible source of information before they believe in reports.
“Let us show the world that no matter how deep our feelings and commitment for our candidate, we can conduct peaceful and orderly elections [that] truly reflect the spirit of democracy,” he said.
For today’s elections, the Comelec has accredited some 104 foreigners to serve as observers.
“The Philippines is becoming the one of the leaders in automated elections,” said Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista. “We are sharing our international best practices—especially those looking to transform from manual to automated [polls].”
Some 50 of the foreign observers come from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, Nepal, Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand and Korea, he said.
The others come from foreign embassies and international organizations based in the country.
The Comelec chief said the Comelec and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting conducted an orientation seminar for the foreign observers.
The PPCRV said Sunday it has deployed all of its volunteers nationwide to monitor the polling precincts on Election Day.
Anna de Villa Singson told radio dzBB the PPCRV is ready to accept any complaints from voters who will cast their ballots on Monday.
She added, however, that the complaints of election fraud must be accompanied by evidence.
A day before the national and local elections, the Philippine National Police announced the arrest of close to 4,100 persons for violating the nationwide election gun ban.
Police also arrested 12 people who violated the liquor ban which was implemented on Sunday.
The liquor ban will last throughout Election Day on Monday.