As many of TFM's regular readers know, my wife is a Filipina. I've been to the Philippines multiple times in my life, lived there, married there etc. I love the country and its people.
MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines said Tuesday it would probe claims of vote fraud after national elections marred by violence and stolen ballots, with up to 100,000 people unable to participate in the polls.
Two people who were counting votes by hand from Monday's polls were killed Tuesday, taking the death toll to 126 in election-related violence, which drew international criticism and scared many away from voting.
Millions cast ballots to elect thousands of local politicians, the entire 275-seat House of Representatives and half the 24-seat Senate, control of which could go to the opposition, exit polls suggested.
"We do not deny that there were many who were disenfranchised," said the head of the national election commission, Benjamin Abalos.
"It may not be a substantial amount but as long as there is disenfranchisement, even if it is just one or two people, we cannot close our eyes."
The commission has set up a panel to look into reports of cheating, and 110 special courts have been opened nationwide to handle an expected flood of fraud claims, which are common in this Southeast Asian nation.
As many as 100,000 voters in the strife-torn south of the country were unable to cast their ballots due to the threat of violence or lack of ballot papers, some of which were stolen, the commission said.
Abalos insisted the elections had been generally fair and peaceful, rejecting reports of rampant irregularities.
"There have been no reported incidents of cheating" except for minor isolated incidents, he told reporters.
The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) a public policy group, however, said Monday's election could see the lowest turnout in six years.
Disputing Abalos' estimate of a 70 to 80 percent turnout among the country's 45 million registered voters, CenPEG's Bobby Tuazon said several precincts in Manila reported turnouts as low as 50 percent.
"If this is the case, Monday's elections could be the lowest in years, with 77 percent turnout in 2004 (presidential election) and 85 percent in 2001 (midterm elections)," Tuazon said.
He said reports showed that "possibly hundreds of thousands of voters" were directly disenfranchised with their names missing from voter lists.
As counting began around the country Tuesday the focus is now on who will dominate the Senate.
President Gloria Arroyo's allies hold seven of the 12 Senate seats not contested, meaning the fragmented opposition would need to win eight of the seats up for grabs to take control of the upper house.
An opposition-controlled Senate would make it harder for Arroyo to pursue her economic reform agenda. Over the past three years, Congress has passed a set of tax bills which shored up the government's finances.
The country is also dirt poor and run by corrupt politicians that rob the people blind. It's sad, for the Filipino people are some of the best on this planet. It's their politicians that are despicable. Sadly these elections won't change anything, as my wife says about those in power- "Same dog, different collar."
Linked to- Leaning Straight Up, Perri Nelson, The World According to Carl,