21 int?l election observers to monitor ARMM polls; Moro groups join PPCRV in

This, as a dozen Moro civil society groups and the Muslims’ Darul Ifta have separately signed a memorandum of agreement with the Catholic Church’s Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), a nationwide network of 500,000 volunteer poll watchers, to pool their resources and establish a “single network of volunteer monitors and watchers which shall take the lead in monitoring, watching and canvassing of votes in the ARMM.”

The agreement was in response to, among others, the call of the ulama to “rise against the sarcastic perception that the ARMM is the ‘cheating capital for elections.’

The visit of the international observers is being coordinated by the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).

The observers, coming from Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand and Sri Lanka will arrive in Zamboanga City on May 6 for a “Forum on Islam, Elections and Democracy” hosted by The Asia Foundation.

The Forum will convene key representatives from local religious groups, non-governmental organizations, and international elections observers “to discuss critical issues facing Muslim Filipino voters throughout the ARMM.”

ARMM comprises the Islamic City of Marawi and the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and the newly-created Shariff Kabungsuan which was carved out of Maguindanao.

The forum, co-sponsored by the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will provide a venue for sharing “best practices gained from past elections, discuss transparency in the election process, and provide a particular focus on the role of ethnic, religious, or political conflict and how these issues have shaped their countries’ elections,” the press statement of The Asia Foundation said.

Philippine participants will be represented by the PCID and the PPCRV.  

The international observers will be in Mindanao until May 15.

The PPCRV, accredited by the Commission on Elections as its citizens ar n for the May 14 elections, signed a memorandum of agreement on April 3 with the ARMM Partners for May 2007 elections to protect the integrity of the electoral process “and to deter or prevent the commission of fraudulent acts in the May 2007 elections, particularly during the voting, counting and canvassing process.”

The ARMM Partners is composed of the Citizens Coalition for ARMM Electoral Reforms, Inc. (C-CARE), Concerned Alliance of Professors and Students, Inc. (CAPS); Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS); Electoral Reform Advocates (ERA); Maguindanao Foundation for Good Governance and Development, Inc. (MFGGD); Maranao People Development Center (Maradeca, Inc); Muslim Mindanao Consumers Association, Inc. (MMCA); Muslim Women Peace Advocates –Sulu Council (MWPA); Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID): Sulu State College Master in Public Administration Alumni Association (SSC-MPA-A, Inc.); Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc. (TLS); United Youth for Peace and Development, Inc. (UNYPAD).

A similar MOA was entered into between the PPCRV and the Assembly of the Darul Ifta of the Philippines based in Cotabato City, on April 26.

Mufti Abdulla Hamja Litoh signed for the Daul Ifta.