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Fil-Ams call to boycott remittances should Philippine elections fail, be postponed

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Contact: Bernadette Ellorin
Chairperson, BAYAN USA

Filipino-Americans under the umbrella group BAYAN USA are calling for a one-day boycott of remittances from the US to the Philippines on Monday, May 10th should the scheduled national elections in the country not push through due to a postponement or technical failure. The alliance called for heightened vigilance to ensure clean, honest, fair, and peaceful elections to take place as scheduled next week and expressed zero-tolerance for a possible holdover scenario of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that would result in an indefinite extension of the current presidential term.

“The conditions for a failure of elections and the engineering of an Arroyo holdover are present,” states BAYAN USA Secretary-General Rhonda Ramiro, who is currently in Manila to participate in an elections observers mission next week. “No one stands to gain from an election postponement or election failure scenario but GMA herself, who can easily take advantage of the current automated election system (AES) chaos and engineer a holdover.”

Last May 4th, a proposal was made by former Arroyo election lawyer Romulo Macalintal to postpone the elections 15 days in order to respond to numerous reports of technical glitches with 76,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines. Macalintal later resigned from his post after the proposal was ultimately rejected by the Comelec, who claimed it could resolve the technical failures by replacing the flash disks in each of the PCOS machines. BAYAN USA, however, continues to raise concern over the timing of events just days before the scheduled May 10th elections.

“In the first place, Comelec and Smartmatic failed to do its job of conducting adequate pre-testing of the PCOS machines before deploying them to the precincts, largely ignoring the people’s questions about the new computerized system” Ramiro continued. “Now just days before the election, it will rush to change all the flash disks to resolve these technical glitches. The Comelec and Smartmatic should be held accountable for failing to ensure accuracy and efficiency of the new AES. Not to mention that the timing of all of this is very suspicious and hints of either massive automated electoral fraud or massive technical failures come election day.”

Ramiro pointed to other conditions that suggest an Arroyo maneuver for election failure, such as the Arroyo government’s rush to appoint a new Supreme Court Chief Justice before May 17th, and the massive deployment of thousands of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops to over 10 cities in Metro Manila this week supposedly to monitor polling stations.

“Why rush now to appoint a new Supreme Court Chief Justice? Could it be to ensure that Arroyo would have the Supreme Court’s support to implement a holdover of her term should the elections not push through on Monday? Are the AFP troops deployed to safeguard polling stations or to quell any protest action that may result from a failure of elections next week? Either way, the people, including Filipinos in the US, should be vigilant.” Ramiro concluded.

In 2009, annual remittances from overseas Filipinos totaled to more than $17 billion. Filipinos in the US contribute at least 60% of the annual overall total.

BAYAN USA is joining other Filipino groups in the US in four days of action and vigilance starting this Friday, May 7th till Monday, May 10th. Actions include informational forums, prayer vigils, and demonstrations to monitor the elections and warn against an Arroyo holdover by way of election failure.