Which is the most important national issue today?
Re-election for President Benigno Aquino 3rd? Accusations against Vice-President Jejomar Binay? Metro Rail Transit woes? Bangsamoro bill? Power crisis? Jobs and prices? Ebola? ISIS?
Actually, none of the above, although all of these concerns, along with others, deserve national attention. However, there is an even bigger issue that trumps all — one that strikes at the foundation of democracy, and could open the door to wholesale accumulation and abuse of power. Indeed, it has already done so.
But before we turn to that little discussed yet utterly crucial matter, let’s quickly address some of the ones cited above.
Aquino re-election: One newspaper headlined that the President’s remarks at the Bali Democracy Forum last Friday showed that he was not running again. Considering that he said many times before that he would step down in mid-2016, then hinted in August about re-election, it’s hard to give credence to anything he says about the issue.
More telling is the 62 percent of Pulse Asia survey respondents last month who did not favor Aquino running again. Plus the same proportion not keen on charter change at this time, against just 20 percent in favor. One more: this newspaper’s banner story yesterday on a survey showing Binay trumping both Aquino and Roxas in an election.
Binay accusations: First, let’s get one thing straight: a Senate hearing dominated by the VP’s accusers, with profuse insinuations but nil hard evidence, can never deliver impartial truth. Never. Nor can front-page aerial photographs but no documents of ownership. Binay’s ratings have predictably dropped in a survey done the very week when senators attacked him. But before one writes him off, remember that a pardoned plunderer came in No. 2 in the 2010 presidential race.
Of course, the Binay barrage may herald impeachment, prosecution and jail, taking him out of the polls altogether. But that requires at least 30 percent of congressmen taking the risk that he might still beat the rap, come out on top in 2016, then exact revenge by releasing reams of incriminating pork barrel papers now locked up by Malacañang. With more than 60 percent of survey respondents picking Binay over Aquino and Roxas in yesterday’s headlined poll, that’s a big risk for the 30 percent to take.
Aquino’s neglect and Arroyo’s plan
MRT, electricity, and Ebola: These issues should not have become serious problems. But the first two are, due to high-level incompetence and neglect at the Transportation and Energy agencies, plus possible MRT corruption.
The imperative for proper train and rail maintenance was no secret; neither was the projected demand for power. But the Aquino administration let it all slide, and now wants emergency powers to make up for four years of negligence on electricity, while still refusing to take resolute action on MRT.
Expect more train mishaps and delays, rushed generating deals, and long power cuts. Plus the usual Aquino blame game, which already began with his warning about public anger if lawmakers withhold emergency powers. No apologies, of course, for the real cause of failing trains and power shortages: four years of not heeding repeated warnings on both problems.
As for Ebola, there’s already a tried-and-tested action plan, which kept a far more infectious disease from sweeping the country: the Arroyo administration’s measures against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003. SARS was also viral and incurable like Ebola. But while the latter spreads only through body fluids of victims already with symptoms, SARS infects by sneeze, touch, door knobs, elevator buttons, and room air.
How did we protect the Philippines? Read Chapter 4 of Beating the Odds, a book on Arroyo-era crisis management, co-authored by this writer as then-Cabinet Secretary. Better still, ask then-Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit, now head of the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.
But there may be one obstacle: Aquino absolutely abhors adopting any Arroyo achievement, except those that benefit his rule, like her tough fiscal reforms and conditional cash transfer. Let’s hope he doesn’t block the SARS plan.
Bangsamoro and ISIS: These concerns have been extensively covered in past columns, including the ones last Thursday and Monday, and those published on April 4, 7, 9 and 11. We will do further analysis next week, and turn our attention now to the biggest political issue that Filipinos must address now: PCOS.
Hacking Philippine democracy
To cut to the chase, the Smartmatic’s Automated Election System using the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) counting and transmission machines must be junked. As clearly and expertly detailed in professor, economist and columnist Rene Azurin’s 2013 book, Hacking Our Democracy: The Conspiracy to Electronically Control Philippine Elections, PCOS was used in 2010 and 2013 with nil safeguards, allowing massive fraud.
Few Filipinos know this, however, thanks to the willful concealment by mainstream media–with the exception of this paper. That is why the Catholic Church and civil society must mount a nationwide campaign to tell Filipinos about this computerized cheating, and mobilize them to fight for a system that complies with the law.
This is absolutely imperative not only to protect the sovereign will of the people, but also to advance the truth and justice of God.
And if the Smartmatic/PCOS or a similar fraud-prone system would again be used, the citizenry must boycott the polls and mount civil resistance. More than any other act of misgovernance by this administration, it is the computerized manipulation of elections that would justify people power.
Electronic election fraud would not only install the ruling party’s preferred winners in national and local positions, but more dangerously, ratify constitutional amendments undermining rights, checks and balances, national security, justice, and accountability.
Quite simply, the destruction of Philippine democracy.
Let’s just look at one immense failing among many others allowed by the Commission on Elections: the electronic transmission of PCOS tallies without digital signatures, as mandated by law and absolutely needed to detect fraudulent data.
In both 2010 and 2013, Comelec dispensed with this indispensable requirement. That is like accepting any vote tally, even those scribbled on toilet paper.
More than fixing the trains, keeping the lights on, and worrying about ISIS and Ebola, unhacking our elections must be the nation’s top agendum.
And the time for bidding out, testing, and rolling out a new system, one that even ordinary Filipinos can check, is fast running out. Not to mention the monumental task of convincing our people that they were fooled twice and must fight a third digital deception.
Let’s pray that Filipinos stand up against PCOS III. Otherwise, we will all pay for it in 2016 and beyond.