Whither Guns, Goons, and Gold? the Decline of Factional Election Violence in the Philippines

By Linantud, John L. | Contemporary Southeast Asia, December 1998 | Go to article overview

Whither Guns, Goons, and Gold? the Decline of Factional Election Violence in the Philippines


Linantud, John L., Contemporary Southeast Asia


Introduction

As long as terrorism and fraud - or guns, goons, and gold - intrude on Philippine elections, democratization will be incomplete. This article seeks to uncover and explain patterns of violence in Filipino elections between 1965 and 1998. The first section will describe election violence in 1998, and will show that non-ideological factional violence has declined since the 1960s. The second section will show that the factors responsible for violence - a decentralized political structure, social disorder, and a confrontational political subculture - have not changed enough to account for this decline. In the third section, it will be argued that the emergence of the military and church is the biggest change in political structure since martial law, and must bear responsibility for the decline in violence. The article concludes that church participation is necessary for democratic consolidation because it institutionalizes non-violent, mass participation.

Election Violence in 1998

Election Violence in 1998

The 11 May 1998 elections witnessed over 63,000 candidates contesting 17,500 positions, including president and vice president, 12 of 24 senators, 204 elected House seats, 78 provincial governors and vice governors, over 1,600 mayors and vice mayors, and 14,000 councillors.(1) In 1998, 27 million people, representing an 80 per cent turnout, voted in 174,000 precincts.(2)

A count of reports in the Philippine Daily inquirer of pre-election violence in 1998 totalled 71 incidents and 39 fatalities, including 13 dead in Luzon, 16 in Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 1 in Manila, and 9 elsewhere. Incidents included 30 attacks on officials, politicians, or supporters, 17 attacks on rallies, offices, or homes, 5 clashes of supporters, 4 kidnappings, 4 incidents over posters, and threats, weapons violations, and arson.(3) The Inquirer reported 37 election day disturbances, with 14 dead in Luzon, 10 in Mindanao and the ARMM. Incidents included blockades of polling centres, intimidation and threats on voters or officials, ballot snatching, and blackouts to disrupt canvassing.(4) Post-election events included arson that destroyed canvassing results.(5)

Many incidents were motivated by real or suspected fraud. To understand the prevalence of fraud, consider a typical election. At 7:00 a.m., voters go to the precincts (usually classrooms), write in more than 30 names, and drop the ballots into metal boxes. At 3:00 p.m., election inspectors, usually teachers, start manual canvassing. Inside the precinct, "watchers" from parties monitor the recording while volunteers from the National Citizens Movement For Free Elections (Namfrel) and Parish Pastoral Council For Responsible Voting (PPCRV) keep a watch on possible cheating or intimidation. Outside, the general public watches through precinct windows. Inspectors work all night to deliver the ballot boxes to police stations by the next day. Ballot boxes are then brought to regional capitals and Manila for canvassing, which takes weeks or months to complete. This procedure invites intimidation, fraud, and human error. The Commission on Elections (Comelec), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP), formerly the Philippine Constabulary (PC), handle security. Namfrel, using carbon copies of tally sheets, and national media, using exit polls, publish "quick counts" to hinder fraudulent canvassing.

Patterns of Election Violence, 1965-98

Table 1 is a list of pre-election violent incidents from 1965 to 1998. Given the absence of large-scale insurgency in the 1960s, most casualties in 1965-71 resulted from fighting between non-ideological factions. Pre-election deaths peaked at 905 in November 1971, a year before President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in September 1972. Beginning in 1978, the regime renewed elections. After the repeal of martial law in January 1981, apertura generated new poll violence by factions and insurgents. …

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