IT is astounding, the way so many have fallen silent about the irregularities and abnormalities that happened during the May 9 elections. If one weren’t listening to the quiet, one would think what we had was the cleanest, most honest and credible election ever. That of course is not true.
Apparently this democracy that prides itself in being partial to the truth, and which demands of its government officials and institutions honesty and integrity, can also decide to be blind to an electoral crisis.
Silence over COMELEC
Let us stop with the assertion that those who saw or experienced problems with this election and those who question its results must be the ones to provide proof of this crisis. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is a government office in the service of the electorate. It is their responsibility to respond to nation’s questions about election irregularities, as it is their commitment to “conduct clean, credible, free, honest, orderly and modernized electoral exercises and to empower the electorate toward a vibrant Philippine democracy.” (COMELEC website)
To demand that all of us who were surprised to see our names on voters’ lists, or surprised to find that it was not there, to demand that each and every Juan and Juana file a complaint about not being able to vote because of dysfunctional voting-machines, is to already absolve COMELEC of its responsibility to each and every voter. It is to dismiss the complaints and news reports the way COMELEC has: file complaints and then we will respond.
In the meantime, we will tell the world that the problems were so minor it didn’t affect election results anyway. Yes, that sounds horrible from an institution that’s mandated to protect the sanctity of the vote. Even more so when you realize that this is the same COMELEC and Smartmatic that has faced reports of electoral fraud and irregularities in 2010 and 2013.
COMELEC Resolution No. 10083
It seems the stage was set for us to ask even more questions in 2016.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, “A pre-proclamation controversy refers to any question pertaining to or affecting the proceedings of the board of canvassers which may be raised by any candidate or by any registered political party or coalition of political parties … in relation to the preparation, transmission, receipt, custody and appreciation of the election returns.”
In March, less than two months before the May elections, COMELEC Resolution No. 10083 was promulgated (as per the COMELEC website). It stated that: “There shall be no pre-proclamation cases on issues/controversies relating to the generation/printing, transmission, receipt and custody, and appreciation of ERs or the COCs.”
This pretty much disallows anyone at all from filing a pre-proclamation complaint connected to any vote counting irregularities or election anomalies.
Thus the insistence that Bongbong Marcos wait until after the proclamation of Leni Robredo before he files his complaint. Thus making it possible that the canvassing of the joint session of Senate and Congress will just give us a whole lot of “Noteds” for every point raised about the results.
We saw that happen in the 2010 elections, and we let it slide. And where did that bring us? To 2016 elections that are being bogged down with even more questions.
The anti-Bongbong crisis
But it seems the COMELEC can count on the anti-Bongbong sentiment to survive this crisis unscathed.
Which is to say it has become more important to keep Bongbong off that VP seat, than to make sure that elections are credible, with all votes counted, all irregularities brought to light, all questions answered.
The anti-Bongbong crisis is such that we cannot in any way agree with him. When he said that he thinks only the Liberal Party is capable of cheating, we laughed at him and reminded him that his father cheated in elections, too—never mind that that doesn’t say anything about him at all. When he demanded for a system audit, we echoed COMELEC and asked him for proof that a system audit is needed at all—never mind that as a candidate and Senator he has a right to demand it, never mind that all of us who voted in this election actually deserve that audit.
When he did his Privilege Speech in the Senate on Monday, we enjoyed the fact that the President’s creation of a new Department of ICT got more media mileage. When he says anything at all in relation to justice and fairness in this election, we respond by talking about the sins of his family, never mind that these are two very different things.
Not listening, not data analysis
More than not listening to Bongbong, it seems we’re not listening to ourselves anymore. What are we sacrificing in the name of this anti-Marcos stance at this point in time? What kind of elections are we looking at in 2019 and 2022, if we let the COMELEC-Smartmatic combo get away with elections like this last one yet again?
It’s not even about how data is analyzed at this point—in fact that is all beside the point now. It’s about whether or not the data that is being presented to us by COMELEC is itself credible. For both the 2010 and 2013 elections, and for 2016, it is the data released by the vote-counting machines that is in question.
Through a system audit, we can get proof of any irregularities or fraud. That would be the only step to take if what we want are credible and honest elections, where all votes are counted and the right to suffrage respected.
The question really is why don’t we all want this for our nation?