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More Violence Reported as Filipinos Complete Voting


The polls have closed in the Philippines, where the people - some of them braving bullets or bombs - cast votes for the entire House of Representatives, half of the Senate and thousands of local and regional representatives. Douglas Bakshian visited polling stations in the Manila area, and sent this report.

Charges of cheating are a strong feature of Philippine elections. The opposition accused President Gloria Arroyo of cheating to win the 2004 race, and tried to impeach her twice, but failed.

This year, there was increased vigilance at the polls. There were the usual party and elections commission monitors, and cell phones were also playing a role. The news media and the elections commission had urged voters to send text messages to report irregularities.

Fifty-six-year-old Benjamin Aquino, voting in the Manila suburb of Quezon City, says he hopes this will help bring a more honest election.

"I think this is more cleaner than 2004. Maybe because of this texting brigade, and radio, and TV - and the media.
Q: "More people are watching?"
A: "Yes. We are more vigil [vigilant] than before," Aquino says.

Violence is a sad feature of Philippine politics. More than 100 people were killed during this campaign, and at least six more were reported shot to death and others injured by bombs Monday. Much of the bloodshed took place in the provinces, where disrespect for law, massive poverty, and rivalry among political families leads to deadly clashes.

Things in the capital area are generally much more peaceful. A large polling station was set up at Batasan Hills National High School in the suburb of Quezon City. Principal Gil Magbanua hopes that by teaching young people democratic values, violence can eventually be driven out of the political process.

"The message is that we hold elections minus the bloodshed, minus the guns, minus the gold," Magbanua says. "We wish to see that we detach our personal closeness with guns, goons…whether it is national or local elections. And we can do that probably by educating our younger generations."

With 45 million eligible voters spread across seven thousand islands, and with ballots counted by hand, tallying the votes is quite an exercise here. In the smaller cities and towns, winners should be declared within days, but it is expected to take about a week for the House results to be announced, and two weeks for the Senate. If there are protests by losing candidates, final results could be delayed for a month or more

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