Election 2010: Filipino Church providing 45,000 volunteers to prevent fraud
by Santosh Digal
The Parish Council for Responsabile Voting yesterday launched an information campaign in Manila. Volunteers will fan out in each parish to explain how to use electronic voting machines. Monitoring group chairwoman says the Church has a mission to help the nation hold free and fair elections.

Manila (AsiaNews) – A Church-based group is organising an army of 45,000 volunteers to monitor polling stations, bring to the public’s attention cases of vote rigging and raise awareness among voters as to best ways to vote responsibly. The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is an initiative of the Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. By means of an information campaign that began yesterday in Manila, PPCRV volunteers will fan out over the territory to explain to voters how the new precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines work.

The task of PPCRV volunteers is to act as watchers in order to study voter behaviour, said PPCRV chairwoman Henrietta de Villa. Contrary to the past, when people know how to vote responsibly, there would be less of chance for cheating, she explained. More importantly, it is the Church’s mission to help the nation ensure that polls are “free and fair” as this has been the constant cry of the people at large, De villa added.

Filipino elections are notorious for voting buying, intimidation and fraud. This is due to almost feudal relations between the families of some candidates and the electorate. Violence and murders are ever present.

Following the tragic events of Maguindanao on 23 November, the government decided to use new precinct count optical scan machines. Votes are scanned and read by an optical machine to limit human intervention during cote counting.

In the past, votes were counted manually by monitors hired by the candidates.