Barely four months after the much coveted National and Local Elections in the Philippines, the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) hosted a panel discussion on strengthening democracy in the Philippines, to know if it’s a free and fair election, happen last August 18.

ANFREL invited representatives from domestic election observer groups to share their insights about the recently concluded May 2022 national and local elections in the country, and some insights on what to do to improve it

During the live panel discussions, invited speakers passionately point out many issues and their takes on how to improve it for the future elections, and how to avoid these issues that keep happening every election time comes.

Observers believe that the May 2022 election is not fair in terms of campaigning for any political and individual politicians and politicians to be, here are some notes that they observe that need attention; Environment during the campaign, prior to the campaigning was not fair, Pandemic protocols is not observed or practice, here is little violence in some areas in the country, there are a lot of campaigning prior to campaign period, vote buying also exists, a lot of incumbent officials use their position, Political dynasty still reign supreme, and a lot of candidates spend money before the campaign period.

For the representative of Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said that the last May 9 election is one of the most tiring days for their volunteers, voting opens as early as 5AM and they were involve in preparation for the precents to be ready, -some voting precinct have more than 1 day of canvassing due to technical issues such as SD card malfunction mostly in Metro Manila.

PPCRV recommend to change some counting machines use in the last election due to usage failure of some PCOS Machine, they said that 70% of machines were used in 3 elections already, while 15 % used in 2 elections, and there are only 10, 100 units that are brand new, they said that Commisions on Elections should had an open idea of replacing it for the coming election to come.

Some resolutions they offer are the following, to have an early election summit for all involve in elections stakeholders, and a technology fair early next year preparing for the coming elections should be put up.

Some panels believe that vote buying is still rampant in the recent election, and base on their studies the reasons for it is because of poverty, many incumbents officials are using government resources, the recent election lacks competitiveness, that’s the reason political dynasty dominates the results.

They suggest that COMELEC should remove the verify complaint, it is hard to file a complaint about vote buying, and local legislators should study the penalty charges against candidates who are involve in vote buying, at present its only 1 to 6 years imprisonment if found guilty.

The said panel discussion was attended by Amael Vier, senior program officer, ANFREL, Eric Alvia, secretary general, National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), Dr. Arwin Serrano, director of voter education, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), Atty. Ona Caritos, executive director, Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) and Ellene Sana, executive director, Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA).

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