An international human rights organization announced that it will be sending a team of observers ahead of this year’s Philippine elections to monitor possible human rights abuses that will be committed.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines launched on Monday, February 7, what it dubbed as the “Philippine Election 2022 – International Observer Mission.”
The group said it aims to “provide independent monitoring of the Philippine elections from the start of the campaign period in February to the May 9 vote.”
It will also observe the vote counting process and the confirmation of elected candidates in June 2022.
The coalition said it launched the mission because Philippine elections in the past “have been characterized by inter-elite rivalry, warlordism, assassination, vote-buying corruption, intimidation and other forms of violence.”
It added that the current elections “are occurring under a government whose members are under investigation by the International Criminal Court” for “not only perpetrating human rights violations but … actively suppressing dissent and the opposition.”
“These concerns compel the international community to cast an inquiring eye on the Philippine elections to monitor the campaign, the vote, and the outcome,” read a statement from the human rights group.
The initiative was launched this week in partnership with Kontra Daya, a Philippine based election watchdog.
The group noted that “previous elections have witnessed high levels of violence against candidates, voters and even journalists,” including the killing of 32 journalists and 26 other civilians in Maguindanao province in 2019.
“In the most recent elections in May 2019, at least 33 people were killed and 19 others wounded in several poll-related incidents leading up to voting day,” said the human rights group.
Rev. Michael Yoshii, one of the leaders of the observer mission, said “the election context itself is deeply troubling.”
He said that based on reports done by the group INVESTIGATE PH, “state policies including the Anti-Terrorism Act have emboldened the police and military to attack activists, peasant leaders, and indigenous peoples.”
“This suggests that those charged with protecting the polls are potential perpetrators of election violence,” said Yoshii.
Sharan Burrow of the International Trade Union Confederation, a member of the observer mission, said that it is “expected” that the government will favor candidates who will be supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“There appears to be no shortage of candidates willing to shield Duterte from prosecution,” said Burrow.
Duterte is facing charges of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court because of his anti-illegal drugs campaign that reportedly killed thousands.
Presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has indicated that should he be elected as president, he will not assist the investigation of the ICC.
The Philippine Election 2022 International Observer Mission will have teams on the ground in all 12 regions throughout the campaign and post-campaign, gathering evidence, taking testimony from participants in the process and issue reports throughout the election period.
The final report of the Election International Observer Mission will be submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, member states of the Human Rights Council, the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Criminal Court.