The joke used to be that in the Philippines no candidate ever lost an election. Candidates do not lose; they only get cheated. It is the same long story from the time Aguinaldo won against Bonifacio and subsequently
had the latter executed for not accepting defeat, to the time three years ago when Roxas lost to Binay; Roxas has not conceded that loss till today – for good automated reasons, if one were even just a wee bit sympathetic to this son of a would-be President and grandson of the first President of the Second Republic.
This is the second automated election to be conducted in this country. The first time was when PNoy was elected and proclaimed President in record time. Manually-counted election became a thing of the past because it was considered too slow, too vulnerable to all manner of intervention by determined cheaters, and simply too tendentious to showing the world how Filipinos become so poor at Math during election periods that they have to surrender their sovereignty to foreigners whom they would rather pay a few billion bucks to count their votes for them. Massive temporary insanity rules one day after another until all controversy is “resolved” or merely glossed-over.
Compared to many other countries, we are not so huge an electorate. We sure are the slowest, however, when it comes to simple ‘rithmetic’. Elections have a way of inducing in our nation a peculiar brand of mathematical regression. Election time always revives in us this fetish for counting with our fingers and toes – slowly. The first automated election was a blast; we counted way too fast, great – but, some say, and they are saying it still in the highest tribunal, not accurately enough.
Last Monday’s second automated election is returning us to old habits with a terrible vengeance. Politicians had three years to study the electronic process neo-colonially imposed on them, and engage I.T. “experts” in their dirty employ. What should have taken seconds like having election results transmitted to the national center has now taken hundreds of hours – days, a week, more – with resultant gross inaccuracies that can hardly be corrected.
Suddenly, Philippine elections in 2013 became exactly like computer war games played by children of all ages with the difference that these would not be for mere entertainment but for inflicting serious damage on the credibility of COMELEC, the integrity of the electoral system and the viability of Philippine democracy. Imagine the results of the party-list contest being accidentally deleted with apologies from Smartmatic! That’s what one read in the papers Friday, same day some would-be senatorial victors were not so bashful about being proclaimed such on the basis of a little more than a quarter of total number of votes accounted for.
The election body was in panic. All the braggadocio was gone. Their main job now was to look for excuses to justify delays. Their duty it was to count accurately and proclaim winners according to the rules. For an automated process it was taking way too long; so, they said they were going to rely on faxed results instead. No, they were not saying we were going back to counting with our fingers and toes. Give a few days more – and more people would be asking the inevitable: What happened? What is happening?
Long before the May 13th polls, politicians had already been purchasing “jammers” and ensuring they had miniature computer gadgets with “blue-tooth” capabilities: jammers to wreak havoc on radio signals in order to prevent transmitting election results before they could “blue-tooth” i.e. edit those election results in their favour. Go to an Internet Café for demonstration purposes. Have blue tooth and see what is happening all around you. If you are careful enough you can change things around.
Going back to the polls, if in a given place only one political I.T. fellow “played,” he or she could function like a vacuum cleaner whopping up the votes originally cast for others without resistance from the unknowing latter. This was common in Leyte and other parts of Region 8. One veteran party-list vacuum-cleaned a big farmers’ group systematically that a pattern of devouring the votes was quite unmistakable on closer look, after the dastardly deed was done.
For example: if the farmers group had a thousand members in one area who could shepherd two other family members or friends for a total of three thousand votes in that area, blue-toothed enemy veteran party-list competitor would reduce the three thousand farmers’ votes down to 200 or less while appropriating for itself some 2,800 votes that were originally meant for the farmers’ party list.
Pedro, a waiter at a local restaurant, said that he and seventeen other relatives and friends voted in the same precinct for the farmers’ party-list whose leaders often came to meet at this place and whose cause to recover the coco levy funds they ardently espoused. The election results of the precinct, however, showed not 18 but only two votes cast for the party of their choice. They were sure they were robbed but they did not know how, nor did they know immediately that others were, too. What could they do now about their disenfranchisement; where would they go to complain, and would there be any remedy at all for so terrible an injustice that may have been done thousands of times over across the vast and lengthy Philippine coco-archipelago? Would the COMELEC allow a precinct level physical audit on the mere request of some coconut farmers?
Wasn’t the COMELEC the same agency whose Chairman announced the electoral disqualification of the farmers’ group without producing a collegial resolution to that end but surely to maim and disable the farmers’ campaign that had already gathered great momentum? Why would he do this, farmers naturally asked, and then they remembered: the COMELEC Chairman had been for many decades the servant-in-law of the man they recently beat in court to cough up 73 billion pesos now in government’s hands for the exclusive benefit of the coconut farmers.
The farmers knew the style too well. For instance, he had “abandoned” coco bank but continued to control it, to borrow from it in extremely liberal terms, and in other ways behave like its owner because he could cause the appointment of his boys to the management of that bank. Wasn’t his political party crucial to the viability of any administration?
Elections 2013 was scary. His hope may have been to continue to control the 73 and more billion pesos that he had been forced by court to surrender. But the farmers were now beginning to have their own independent voice, and taking their court victory seriously by seeking to have their direct say in the legislature; so, why not nip their efforts in the bud – disqualify them from the party-list route to Congress? Impossible? Easy? Well the COMELEC chairman was the key. And he proved to be such a very useful key, indeed.
The struggle is far from over. Monday night the farmers saw 397 thousand votes for their party-list in both PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) and COMELEC tally for partial returns. Their elation was short-lived because afterward the computerized transmittals went crazy and COMELEC, as earlier mentioned, had to stop canvassing. The next day, Tuesday, was disheartening for the farmers who saw only 70,000 credited on their end. A little later, their leaders reported that they got more than that number of votes in Magindanao province alone. So, the farmers decided to make their own tally, straight from the ground and are now preparing through their lawyers to make the proper interventions when the formal canvassing starts, whenever it can at last. In elections past they easily got more than that per individual national federations. Now that the three big national federations had confederated into one, much more was understandably expected.
The farmers now go to the high tribunal against their having been disenfranchised so arbitrarily in a disqualification announcement not backed by collegial action, which resolution, however, was sure to follow (antedated) because of pakikisama (quid pro quo bonding) among boys belonging to the same club.
The whole experience so far got them reflecting on the true nature of Philippine democracy today. It is the rule of Money giving the moneyed few over-all sway on the polity of the land. It used the action of the Many (universally known as People Power) to topple down the earlier rule of the Gun (that was equivalent to Dictatorship or Monopoly). If the ballot route will always prove not viable for the majority people’s aspirations, surely the time will come when the people will be excused for taking another route they feel would be more effective.
A storm is gathering, and more than a mild tsunami may hit the land. When that happens, more than any other agency, the COMELEC will have to be held responsible for all the loss and destruction. Gardeners can smell such things earlier than others, and their noses are curling up before an unbearable stench.