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22 Canadians to observe Philippine election

CANADA – Twenty-two Canadian citizens, including representatives from churches, labour unions, academics, lawyers and a sitting Member of Parliament, Don Davies, are going to the Philippines as part of an international observers mission during the country’s presidential elections next month.

On election day, May 10, 2010, more than 17,000 offices will be contested across the country including the key posts of President, Vice President along with representatives to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and a range of provincial, municipal, and local offices.

The election will mark the end of the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose nine years in power have been marked by hundreds of alleged politically motivated killings and enforced disappearances, along with a climate of impunity for those guilty of the crimes, as revealed by Philip Alston in his April 2008 Report of the UN – Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The People’s International Observers Mission (May 7 to 15, 2010) will monitor and investigate electoral fraud and violence, particularly since this is the first nationwide automated election in the Philippines. The goal is to assure that voters are protected and free to vote according to their conscience and that democratic processes are fully respected.

Civil society groups in the Philippines, including churches, human rights advocates, lawyers and other non-governmental organizations, organized the mission.

Randall Garrison, an elected City Councillor from Esquimalt, B.C. and Mission member said, “The way Canadians have answered the call for this mission shows our strong concern for the deterioration of democracy and human rights in the Philippines.”

“The Philippines has a long history of election fraud, manipulation and violence, exemplified by the horrific massacre near the town of Ampatuan on the island of Mindanao late last year in which 52 people were killed in cold blood, including a record 30 journalists,” he said.

Garrison concluded, “The role of the mission is to help ensure and to assess whether the conditions exist for the conduct of a free, fair and credible election in which Philippine citizens fully exercise their right to vote.”

The eight-member delegation from British Columbia also includes Professor Valerie Raoul and health worker Ron Jeffries. Six delegates from five provinces are active with the United Church of Canada (UCC), including Omega Bula, Executive Minister of the UCC-Justice, Global and Ecumenical Relations Unit and Shaun E. Fryday, ordained Minister at Beaconsfield United Church in Quebec. Priscillia Lefebvre will attend as a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, local 4600 in Ottawa.

In Winnipeg, local radio newscaster Lito Taruc will cover the Philippine election. His reports from the Philippines will be aired on CKJS Radio.