Filipino-American leaders fear a rigged election

I recently returned from the Philippines where I did some reporting. The Asian island nation is generally off the radar screen for most Americans. However, it won't be for long. The Philippines will hold local and national elections May 10th. The official campaign period begins later this month. But already fears are being expressed that the elections could be rigged. The government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has made some moves that is causing this concern. At issue is a decision by the government to use untested electronic voting marchines to tally the May ballots.

So Filipino-American leaders have urged the U.S. government to send top-level election monitors to watch over the Philippine elections. Loida Nicolas Lewis, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) Chair Emeritus, and recently appointed NCR Board member, said a "worrying mix of events" prompted their group to ask the State Department and Capitol Hill to send observers. She said the events endangering the elections include posssible power outages, delays in the printing of ballots, and Arroyo's decision to appoint and surround herself with generals loyal to her.

“Everything, if you count all of this together, seems to be an effort to disenfranchise the voters," Lewis said.

Lewis personally handed a letter detailing the Filipio-American concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She also met with Clinton's deputy chief-of-staff. Afterward, Lewis said she was encouraged by the reception she received. “Once she had the paper in her hand, her face changed and she said: 'I will take this seriously.' She said it three times'," she said.

Meanwhile UCA News service reports that the local bishop of Sorsogon, Bishop Arturo Bastes, reported Lewis' fears after talking with her during a recent trip to the Philippines.

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