A delegation of seven members of the National Lawyers Guild arrived in Manila earlier this week and will join several hundred international election observers to monitor the nation’s historic May 10, 2010 elections. Guild members are expected to be posted in areas throughout the archipelago, including Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao, where electoral violence and corruption are endemic, owing to long running civil conflicts.
“Filipinos will be braving bullets, bribes and voting machine breakdowns to make their voices heard,” said Radhika Sainath, a civil rights attorney at Hadsell Stormer in Los Angeles, CA. “We hope that our presence will help deter and expose any potential election-day fraud,” she added. The delegation will monitor pre-electoral and election-day conditions up through the vote count and issue an extensive report upon returning to the U.S.
The election marks the first time the country will use automated voting machines. The new voting technology has not been independently inspected and lacks manual backup, so it is widely expected to be a source of electoral fraud. Neither the NLG delegation nor the other monitors can ignore the history of the current president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has been publicly exposed as being complicit in election manipulation and of having stacked the supposedly independent electoral commission and the judiciary with loyalists. Nevertheless, observers are committed to being objective and impartial and hope that their mission will assist the Philippines in moving toward a free and fair election system.
NLG delegates include Jacques Morial, a New Orleans-based human rights worker, Harvard academic Suresh Naidu, attorney Radhika Sainath, and UCLA law school students Lincoln Ellis, Farnoosh Hashemian, Christian Kurpiewski and Kyle Todd.