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Carter Center Issues Statement on its Limited Election Observation Mission in the Philippines

Contact: In Atlanta, Soyia Ellison,
In the Philippines, Andrew Ellis, 

Read Full Statement >

DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES — The Carter Center today issued its findings from a limited election observation mission to the Philippines May 9 general elections.

This was a small mission, with just a seven-person team focused on Mindanao, which means that it did not assess the election process comprehensively or observe polling, counting, and tabulation processes in a systematic way. Nevertheless, it was able to draw some conclusions on the broader electoral context, including violence around elections; freedom of expression, assembly and choice in the campaign environment; campaign finance; and the resolution of electoral disputes.

Key findings include:

  • Most electoral stakeholders seemed to feel that the automated elections of 2016 marked a significant improvement over previous Philippine elections.
  • While not all conflict surrounding elections is related to elections, election-related violence remains a significant problem in Mindanao and in many other areas of the country. It is more often linked to local-level competition than to national contests.
  • The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) saw comparatively limited violence in the runup to the election but suffered a spike in violence on and around election day.
  • The volume and complexity of electoral legislation and regulation constitutes a real barrier to clarity and transparency.
  • Although legislation designed to encourage political participation among women and minorities has been enacted, it is not yet fully implemented.
  • Vote-buying remains a substantial problem, and there are some indications that it is growing. As with election-related violence, it appears to be predominantly linked to local-level competition rather than to national contests. One potentially positive sign is the common perception that verification of vote-buying is considerably more difficult under the automated election system.
  • Limited observations found indications of a significant level of electoral malfeasance in the conduct of polling in areas in and around the ARMM.
  • While the view of most people interviewed by mission members was that the conduct of the polling, counting, and tabulation processes was generally satisfactory, this did not always guarantee a level playing field in the wider local electoral environment.
  • Voting procedures do not fully safeguard the secrecy of the vote.
  • Regulation and transparency in campaign finance are beginning to take root, but their general acceptance will take time and require continuing commitment. There is widespread consensus that campaign spending limits are too low, which undermines the regulatory framework by creating pressure on candidates to file false reports.

The Carter Center also notes with concern recent informal statements by the president-elect that may serve to erode respect for human rights in the Philippines and urges the president-elect and other authorities to reaffirm the country’s commitment to fundamental human rights as set forth in international conventions.

Full Statement

Limited Election Observation Mission to the Philippines June 2016 Statement (PDF)