The country’s Catholic bishops expressed hope that Monday’s elections will be honest and peaceful, and that the will of the people will come out and be heard.
“Whatever would be the outcome, our attitude is to come together, be together, and respect the democratic way of government,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
He said that given that the election is a “crucial and important process to make our democracy work,” everyone should “move forward” in the end “by keeping and helping ourselves to make the government work and support whoever is elected.”
Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz in the southern Philippines, meanwhile, called on whoever will win or lose in the polls to accept the results “with humility” for peace in the country.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines, said it would be the obligation of whoever will win in the May 9 elections to be a leader of all sectors and unite the Filipino people.
“They are not leaders only of one sector, they are not just leaders of those who voted for them but of all of us. They will lead all of us,” said the bishop of Kidapawan.
“Their primary duty is to serve the people as what they have promised,” he added. “They have to be the leader of our people, they have to work and they have to manifest, and they have to exert all efforts to unite and to rally all people in order for us to move on,” said Bishop Bagaforo.
The prelate also reminded supporters of candidates not to destroy personal relationships and friendships with one another.
“Let us hold hands and help each other. Let’s hold hands together and support whoever wins for the good of our society and for the next generation,” the bishop said in a Radio Veritas 846 interview.
Bishop Bagaforo also appealed for prayers for the teachers and volunteer groups, especially those assigned in so-called election hotspots, amid reports of threats of violence.
“Your role is very important,” said the prelate. “I hope that you will not get tired, don’t be afraid, and most important, in the performance of our duties, do not forget to pray for inspiration that will come from the Holy Spirit.”
The bishop assured the help of the Church. “We are one with you and hopefully, with your help, we are making a legacy for the future generation,” he said.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, meanwhile, condemned what they described as the “heightening violence” in the conduct of the elections.
The group expressed alarm that violent events put both the teachers’ and voters’ safety in peril, as well as jeopardize the sanctity of the ballots.
In Cotabato City, police personnel were appointed by the poll body to man the vote counting machines in 47 clustered precincts as teachers who fear for their safety withdrew from election duties.
Armed men also barged into a polling station in Magonaya Binidayan, Lanao del Sur province, and destroyed vote counting machines and ballots.
In Himamaylan Negros Occidental, a female senior high school teacher who was set to serve in the elections was gunned down last night.
In Maguindanao, three security guards were shot dead by unidentified assailants aboard a black service utility vehicle. A strafing incident was also reported in Sumisip town, Basilan province, and “heavy firing” in Tabuan Lasa, Basilan, was also heard.
“Early in the election day, the [Commission on Elections] is failing big time in its mandate to ensure a safe, clean, honest and peaceful polls,” said Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, in a statement.
He criticized the poll body for failing to install sufficient measures to secure the members of the electoral board against harassment and other forms of violence.
The teacher warned that the situation can intensify later in the day toward the end of voting in the precinct level, and when machines have started counting and transmitting election results.
As on noon time on May 9, the Commission on elections said nearly 1,900 vote counting machines have encountered “common issues” on the first few hours of election day.
Elections Commissioner George Garcia said 940 machines were marred with paper jams, 606 rejected ballots, 158 had problems with the scanners, 87 of the machines were not printing, and 76 had printers that were not printing properly.
On social media, some voters expressed frustration because of the delay.