Bishops challenge Duterte on alleged election manipulation

Members of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum gathered with the thousands of protesters in Rizal Park, Manila, on Sept. 21, marking the 45th year of martial law in the Philippines. It was also called a "National Day of Protest." Among the bishops were, second from left, retired United Methodist Bishop Solito K.Toquero and, fifth from left, Manila area Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco. Photo courtesy of Ofelia A. Cantor

By Leslie Ann Aquino | Manila Bulletin

A fellowship of bishops on Saturday challenged President Duterte to disprove that he coerced and coopted the Commissions on Elections (Comelec) to manipulate the 2019 midterm election results to guarantee the victory of administration candidates.

“He must disprove that he coerced and coopted the Comelec to manipulate election results, as the breach in the transparency in the Smartmatic automated election system (AES) and the suspicious failure of Vote Counting Machines (VCM) are widely believed to be merely ploys to guarantee the victory of his administration’s candidates through wholesale election fraud,” the Ecumenical Bishops Forum said in a statement.

“We challenge President Duterte to answer accusations that he has engaged in, and tolerated electoral malpractices that will allow him to establish a political regime based on a concentration of power at his hands,” it further read.

“He must establish that the elections have been truly a democratic process, and that none has been disenfranchised with their essential right to suffrage and that their votes are honestly counted,” said EBF.

The group said President Duterte must also answer allegations that public funds were used to bribe voters and disbursements were made from the national coffers to obtain “political partisanship.”

“He must also answer for the actions of state forces on the harassment and intimidation of progressive candidates and partylist organizations during the election cycle. It does not only speak of election fraud but the abuse and misuse of state powers and national coffers as well,” EBF said.

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Should President Duterte be proven to have systematically and maliciously committed fraudulent actions in the elections, the group said he must be rendered culpable for exacerbating rather than uplifting the state of the nation’s democracy from its present predicament.

“His failure to uphold the standards of electoral integrity will only strengthen the risk of democracy collapsing in our time which could have catastrophic consequences for everyone,” EBF said.

“May we remind President Duterte that any government that exercises power through fraudulent means has no moral basis; and should his government does not right its wrongs by itself, the Filipino people have the patriotic duty to do so for the preservation of our democracy,” the group added.

EBF is a the fellowship of bishops from the United Church of Christ (UCCP), United Methodist (UMC), Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and the Roman Catholic Churches in the Philippines. #MatalinongBoto2019

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