Namfrel protects democratic election processes
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
The political scene is starting to heat up as we approach the 2016 elections. The presidential race could end up having three winnable candidates, with the results likely similar to the 1992 election where the difference between the votes of the winner and the second-placer was insignificant. It is thus imperative that the elections be not only credible but also perceived to be such, and reflective of the true will of the people.
The choice of the next president and the credibility of the elections are critical if we are to sustain the momentum of continuous economic growth. Keeping it going for at least two more six-year terms will hopefully provide more balanced growth for all the sectors of our population, including the poor. The coming electoral exercise is critical for it will test the maturity of our nation in choosing its leader, the credibility of our election process, and whether there will be a smooth transition from the P-Noy administration to the next.
The right environment needs to be present for the true will of the people to manifest itself in the election results. It is to this end that monitoring organizations need to be actively involved, serving as independent watchdogs and, at the same time, working closely with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in helping eliminate or at least minimize opportunities for subverting the people’s will. This will involve ensuring compliance with election laws as well as enfranchisement of voters, voter education, and accurate and timely counting, tabulation, transmission and summarization of the people’s votes.
The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) has been the premier independent election monitoring organization not only in the Philippines but in the region as well. Formally organized in 1983 in the aftermath of the assassination of former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., it spearheaded citizen vigilance in the 1986 “snap” election that helped restore democracy in the Philippines. Over 500,000 Namfrel volunteers gave their time and energy, and some even their lives, to protect the sanctity of the ballot, leading to the 1986 People Power Revolution that ended the Marcos dictatorship.
Namfrel as a Filipino citizens’ group provides pride to the country as a world pioneer in election monitoring. It is recognized by the United Nations and the UN Development Program, and has been nominated to the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize by distinguished organizations such as the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace and the International Human Rights Group.
Its volunteers have participated as trainers, observer team members, election administrators and resource persons in 34 countries so far. It has been directly involved and has served as a model in the creation of similar election monitoring organizations in a number of these countries.
As in the past electoral exercises, Namfrel and its volunteers have embarked on active involvement in the 2016 elections. About three months ago, it facilitated a forum/dialogue between some election commissioners and civil society and top business groups including the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Lente, Young Public Servants/Youth Vote and Philippine Center for Civic Education and Democracy, among others. At the forum, certain concerns were identified, such as the automated election system to be used, biometric-system issues, voters’ rights, security and enforcement of election laws.
In July, Namfrel council members engaged Comelec Chair Andy Bautista and three commissioners in a dialogue to identify areas of cooperation in ensuring smooth, honest and credible elections in 2016. Bautista, acknowledging the importance of random manual audit in authenticating the results of an automated system, has asked Namfrel to spearhead this audit. Namfrel can also assist as needed in voter education and registration, evaluation and vetting of counting machines, election monitoring and independent voting tabulations, and, more importantly, compliance with campaign finance rules.
On Aug. 7, Namfrel submitted to the Comelec its comments on the draft omnibus rules and regulations governing campaign finance. Namfrel strongly believes that the adoption of these recommendations will significantly strengthen the Comelec’s mandate on enforcing election laws.
As a nonpartisan volunteer organization, Namfrel is funded neither by the government nor by any political party or partisan institution. It draws upon contributions and donations from civic-minded citizens, corporations and institutions that appreciate the need and importance of honest and credible elections, which they recognize as essential to peace, stability and economic development.
We again call on these citizens and corporations who share Namfrel’s vision to continue its legacy through generous contributions and/or sign up as volunteers. Donors may call +632-470-4151 for the collection of their checks. Or donations may be deposited directly to Namfrel-Bantay ng Bayan Foundation Inc., BDO c/a #005378009312. Please e-mail a scanned copy of the deposit slip to [email protected] for proper acknowledgement.
“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”—Edmund Burke
David L. Balangue ([email protected]) chairs the Coalition Against Corruption, Philippine Center for Population and Development Inc., and Namfrel. He is a former chair of SGV & Co.
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