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Regional think tank joins call for fair, free and safe elections

Philstar.com
Regional think tank joins call for fair, free and safe elections
This undated file photo shows the printing of ballots. The poll body and the National Printing Office are preparing to print ballots for manual overseas and local absentee voting.
Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — A regional network of research think tanks on Monday lauded the resolution by the European Parliament urging the Duterte administration to ensure fair and free elections and "a non-toxic environment” for campaigning for the 2022 polls.

In a statement sent to reporters Monday morning, the Asia Pacific Research Network threw its weight behind the EP's call to monitor the electoral situation in the Philippines.

"We echo the EU's call for fair and free elections. The emerging vitriol and violence in the ongoing electoral campaigns is alarming. We should let the Duterte government know that the world is watching," APRN said in a statement.

"Electoral watchdogs and observation missions play a role in deterring intimidation and further violence during these democratic exercises. With the scale of the human rights crisis in the Philippines and the region, we have to ensure, more than ever, that elections are fair, democratic and peaceful," APRN Board of Convenors chair Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed said.

The EU's legislative body voted 627 out of its 684 members to pass a resolution last Thursday, February 17 calling on the Philippine government to end its bloody implementation of its "drug war" and its labeling of activists and journalists as communist rebels. 

The EU warned Manila of the possibility of a temporary withdrawal of trade benefits if calls remained unheeded.

In its resolution, the EU noted the administration’s failure to invite the EU to conduct an election observation mission and sounded the alarm on the current state of the national elections citing reports of disinformation and hate campaigns amid growing ‘troll armies’ in Philippine cyberspace.

The research group also urged the EU to support the International Observer Mission initiated by rights watchdog International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines to provide independent monitoring of the Philippine elections from the start of the campaign, the vote, and the eventual outcome. 

Election observation—by local or by international groups—is a common practice, especially in contested elections. In the 2016 and 2019 elections, the Commission on Elections tapped the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) as an observer. 

"Today, most countries in Asia are home to civil society organizations involved in domestic election observation. As a result, the transparency and understanding of electoral processes have been greatly enhanced," the Asian Network for Free Elections, which conducts international election observation, says on its website.

APRN: Resolution a win for victims, Filipinos seeking justice 

In response to the resolution, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the allegations raised in the text are "unfair, largely baseless" as it dismissed the resolution as another intrusion in the country’s internal affairs, particularly the coming elections. 

The APRN on Monday also supported the EU's call to the International Criminal Court to commence its investigation into supposed crimes against humanity in the conduct of the Duterte administration's so-called war on drugs. 

A section of the EU resolution urges the ICC to continue its probe into the allegations of crimes against humanity in the context of the thousands of killings during the war on drugs, under which rights groups both here and abroad say almost 30,000 have been killed in summary vigilante executions. 

"We demand that Duterte and all perpetrators pay for their crimes and that it should be done without delay...All the more that we need the international community to empower local and international watchdogs," Sayeed said.

The APRN also pointed to the escalation of violence in the country during elections citing a history of "inter-elite rivalry, warlordism, assassination, vote-buying corruption, intimidation and other forms of violence."

"This resolution meant not only greater affirmation of the human rights crisis under the Duterte government, but a victory for victims seeking justice and accountability," Sayeed said.   

"As a network of research and advocacy groups, we in APRN, commend efforts of well-meaning EU member states to bring more attention to what is happening in the Southeast Asian country."

— Franco Luna with a report from Gaea Katreena Cabico

2022 ELECTIONS

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