The Philippine 2007 national and local elections were held last May 14, 2007. For sheer delay in proclamation of senatorial results, the senatorial contest proved to be one of the longest, if not the longest. the first ten newly-elected senators were proclaimed after three weeks, the 11th after a month, and the 12th and last one after nearly two months.
But the news was in relation to Maguindanao election. This small province has a recorded registered voters of more than 300,000, almost all of whom, if we believed the Comelec records, voted. Its performance of more than 95% voting stands out–together with the same very high level of voting in the entire ARMM–as a monument to Philippine democracy!
However, critics (including yours truly) are questioning this performance. They point out to the 65% national average of actual voters (which already includes the ARMM results) in the 2007 elections. All election monitors (including our own Bantay-Eleksyon 2007), despite the threats and harassments on them in Maguindanao and elsewhere in ARMM, reported major anomalies in these areas, including the complete lack of copies of the election returns and certificates of canvass (COCs) in Maguindanao.
Maguindanao election officer Lintang Bedol’s claim of “stolen or lost COCs” simply was not believable, particularly when it was claimed that senatorial candidate Chavit Singson (who is not well-known particularly among Moro voters) was the number one. When the reconstituted Maguindanao COC was announced by the Comelec, it was candidate Migz Zubiri who shot to the top. This enabled him to overtake candidate Koko Pimentel’s lead of over 130,000 (eventually the latter would lose by on around 17,000 votes). Comelec’s own tally was based on the supposed municipal COCs and election returns submitted more than one and half month after the elections. All election monitors rejected the Maguindanao election results, including NAMFREL which refused to include these in its tally.
The Maguindanao incident gave a black eye both on the senatorial elections as well as on the Comelec itself. Not a few observers think that the sobriquet “gentleman from Maguindanao” will be something that unfortunately will haunt Migz Zubiri during the rest of his political career. The Comelec, for its part, got a black eye by insisting on basing its count on documents which have controversial provenances. It would have been more preferable for all concerned if new elections were held in Maguindanao, with full monitoring.
The more alarming implication of the Maguindanao incident and the election process in ARMM as a whole is in their capability to influence the results of national elections, including the presidential election itself, particularly in close contests. This does not bode well for the 2010 elections…
As it is, it showed the long way ahead for Philippine electoral reforms.