Manila—Four days after the midterm elections on Monday, May 13, youth and other opposition groups from progressive and faith-based sectors gathered in front of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) to demand transparency from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), currently canvassing the votes.
So far, nine of the 12 potential winners in the senatorial race are candidates backed by the Duterte administration, which could very well signal the end of independence for the Philippines’ upper house. The results of the senatorial elections may be announced by Sunday, May 20.
Young people stood in the front lines of the march toward COMELEC, where they were blocked by the police for around an hour after the protest was scheduled to begin. At the front of the throng were young men and women holding ballot boxes labelled with the alleged anomalies that occurred in the elections, such as ‘VOTE BUYING,’ ‘VOTE SHAVING,’ ‘USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS FOR CAMPAIGNING.’
The mood of the crowd was angry, and yet somehow hopeful. Luke Borromeo of Agham Youth from the University of the Philippines, which is made up of students of science and technology courses, narrated how he and his friends had joined Kontra Daya, an electoral watchdog group.
“We saw vote-rigging and vote-buying for ourselves. As young people, we could not just sit down and take it. That’s why, as early as now, we are joining in with the bigger community and calling for transparency from the COMELEC,” he said.
Artist-activist Mae Paner asked the crowd of some 1500 strong who had gathered at the PICC, “They say our vote is sacred. How can it be sacred with all this fraud? Where is democracy?”
Nanette Castillo, whose son Aldrin had been killed in President Duterte’s so-called drug wars, was in a somber mood. “I want to cry,” she said in Tagalog. “I feel like what the EJK families have sought in getting candidates who would fight EJK (extrajudicial killings) for the last three years has been for nothing. I don’t believe the results. A lot of hocus pocus happened in the elections. Who will fight for justice for my son? We are back to zero.”
Kabataan (Youth) Partylist’s Sarah Elago, who may yet lose her seat in Congress, expressed concern over the outcome of the election. “The results show a complete consolidation of Duterte’s power. We have to prepare for bigger battles to come. So many candidates who are winning have been complicit to, or have remained silent against human rights abuses. While I’m not surprised at the outcome, I am dismayed. COMELEC’s many glitches cast a doubt on the process, and we have to call them to account.”
Aaron Pedrosa of the progressive group Sanlakas announced that they were on their way into COMELEC to serve a motion for canvassing to be suspended because of the anomalies in the electoral process.
The protest was also attended by three senatorial candidates from the opposition, Neri Colmenares, Leody de Guzman, and Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada.
“It is very clear that fraud occurred in this year’s elections,” Mr de Guzman said.
When Mr Colmenares addressed the crowd, he started his speech with, “I will not concede,” which was met with loud cheers.
Speed and transparency were missing on Monday, the most important day,” he continued. “If the elections had been fair and honest, and we lost, no problem. But we are calling out the use of public funds in the campaign…This is not about me. This is not about those who ran for office. This is about fraud and how the voice and will of the people have been insulted. This is about the right of the Filipino people to freely choose their leaders.”
He then led the crowd to shout all together, “We will not concede!” /TISG