Foreign poll observers surprised by PH liquor ban, gun ban
Swedish observers never heard of liquor ban, gun ban in other countries
MANILA -- Two international election observers on Friday said they approve of the Commission on Elections' gun ban and liquor ban for the May 13 polls.
Leif Pettersen and Marie Norden, observers from Sweden, are currently in the Philippines to monitor the mid-term elections in Masbate, one of the key areas identified by the Compact for Peaceful Democratic Elections (COMPACT) that has a history of election-related violence, fraud and political clans.
Thirty observers from 16 different countries will be involved in the 2013 International Observers Mission or the so-called “International Team Bantay”.
Aside from Masbate, the observers will also monitor electoral races in Pampanga, 3rd district of Camarines Sur, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Both Pettersen and Norden said that while they have never heard of the so-called liquor ban and gun ban in any other countries they have observed, they think it is logical to implement such regulations.
"If you go to some countries like Belarus, I've seen people getting a drink after voting, and I think that's a big problem. So I think it's quite brave to say 'We ban liquor for these days because we need you to be sober before and during election day,'" Norden told ANC's "Headstart" Friday morning.
Pettersen, likewise, said it "does make sense to ban liquor" during the election and that more countries should do the same thing.
"When I was in Ukraine, even those who were in charge of the voting process were drunk," he said.
The liquor ban in the Philippines will be for two days only, the election day and the day prior, after the Supreme Court stopped the Comelec from implementing a resolution extending the liquor ban to five days.
The two poll observers also agreed on the need for a gun ban in the country, noting that many private citizens own firearms.
Norden said in other countries, voters are only not allowed to carry guns inside the polling stations.
The Comelec implemented the nationwide gun ban last January 13, the start of the 120-day election period for 2013. Since then, over a thousand violators have been nabbed by police authorities.
As for the implementation of the money ban, which the high court also halted by issuing a status quo ante order, Pettersen and Norden said it is "not for us to say whether it's good or bad."
The money ban, which prohibits the withdrawal of more than P100,000 from banks and other financial institutions, and the "possession, transportation and/or carrying" of more than P500,000 in cash, supposedly aims to prevent vote-buying in Monday's polls.
Norden said, "I think it's good that you actually address the problem that you know that candidates are paying voters." But she added that this may affect commerce in the country.
Pettersen believes the current political climate in the Philippines is much better than before.
"It's calmer... More social reforms are being put forward, and I think the present administration is, well for me, doing a better job than the previous one," he said.
Norden also said: "In some countries, you know that [your] vote is not gonna make a difference. And I don't think you have that problem here in the Philippines that you know that if you actually vote and if you go together and do something, [you] can make a difference."
However, the two international observers both pointed out the importance of a transparent election system in order to get the trust of the Filipino people.
"It's about transparency. It's very much about that. People have to trust the system, and they can only have trust in the system if they know what's going on. I think that's really crucial," Pettersen said.
Norden added that the presence of more poll observers before, during and after the election can also be a way to develop people's trust in the system.
"Most countries really want to have fair elections so I think they should really listen to the observers," she said.