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Polls Close in Philippine Elections - 2004-05-10


Polls have closed in the Philippines after a day in which voters chose a president, legislators and local leaders. The balloting was orderly for the most part, although some irregularities were reported and several attacks raised the total death toll from election-related violence to more than one hundred.

Despite fears of fraud, violence and terrorist attacks, Philippine voters turned out in large numbers Monday. Thousands of police were on duty and special tactical units patrolled the city on motorcycles.

In the working class area of Tondo, near Manila's port, voters cast their ballots at a public school.

Speaking in the crowded school yard, unemployed laborer Donato Aguya says the campaign period was good and there was no harassment of voters. He says the greatest priority for the Philippines leaders is the economy.

"Jobs. That's the first [thing]," he says. "Jobs."

A building supervisor, J.C. Capili, agrees, saying security is also a major concern. Several insurgent groups operate in the Philippines, and the nation's crime rate is quite high. "First thing of all, I want them to increase the employment here in our country because the economy is very, very low," he says. "And then, secondly, peace, I want peace."

Many voters complain about corruption. Cynthia Rasalan is a homemaker originally from Illocos, the home region of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. She says things were better under the former dictator. During his administration, there was less corruption.

A building maintenance worker, Fernando Claro, notes that many candidates have promised to fight corruption and poverty. But he says the promises are all the same. The candidates are good at making promises, but that is all. Once they are elected, the promises are broken.

These are the third elections since democracy was restored in the Philippines following the popular uprising that deposed Mr. Marcos 18 years ago. Although many voters are disillusioned with the political system, voter turnout remains high. Mr. Capili explains why.

"I keep voting because I am a Filipino. It's my right to vote," he says. "That's all. I have a right to choose whatever [whomever] I want."

The three-month campaign has seen scattered violence, primarily aimed at candidates and their staffs. On Monday, there were reports that more than 10 people were killed in attacks around the country, including two who died in a grenade attack in Manila.

Official results from the elections are not expected for several weeks. But independent groups, including watchdog organizations, pollsters and the news media, say they will release preliminary vote counts within days.

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