Leni Robredo could not have picked a time more wrong than when on Thursday last week she declared, reportedly through her camp’s spokesman, that Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., her main rival in the vice presidential race, could only win against her if the official tally by the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) was rigged.
The presumption, reckless as it was audaciously irresponsible, was a slap in the face of the NBOC, or the House of Representatives and the Senate that will convene in a joint session on Tuesday to start counting from Certificates of Canvass or COC the votes from the recently concluded local and national elections.
Robredo’s apparently unfounded fears should be properly assuaged by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. assuring on May 21 to carry out their “bounden duty and on my part it is something very important to me to see that the [canvassing]is done objectively, expeditiously and differences in political affiliation will make no difference to me.”
In the run-up to the synchronized polls, the administration’s vice presidential candidate, also a lawmaker representing the First District of Camarines Sur in Congress, was the epitome of grace under pressure, a shrinking violet even who took much too long to decide if she wanted to become the running mate of Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd.
But, after an official from technology provider Smartmatic to the 2016 elections introduced a new script to the transparency server of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) around 10 p.m. on May 9 in an unauthorized move that was anyway described as “cosmetic,” she blossomed into a desert wild rose, calling Marcos a sore loser when the software change saw her inexplicably overtaking the senator by 200,000 votes or thereabouts.
Before that hour, the senator had enjoyed an advantage of at least one million votes over the congresswoman, raising eyebrows and suspicions as well that the votes were manipulated when everybody and his uncle were dozing off.
With a hint of a doubt that Robredo and Marcos himself cannot possibly be protagonists anymore in a fair battle, the LP presidential bet stopped gloating about her becoming the country’s first woman ”Vice President.”
But the damage to her supposed reputation has been done and, consequently, out went the window the steely mien she projected until Election Day, and perhaps reducing her apparent frugality manifested by those bus trips to and from Naga City into a mere PR stunt lifted straight from the Ramon Magsaysay chronicle about the “common tao.”
Then, Robredo further unraveled after questions were raised by the Marcos camp, a political analyst and IT experts on the mysterious and supposedly statistically impossible catching up that the congresswoman managed to pull off while everybody was already sleeping when the apparent tampering with the command for the server was made.
Referring to her top opponent as a poor political sport was premature, with many quarters, including her own Liberal Party, through Belmonte, admitting that the contest for Vice President was too close to call.
At this writing, the Speaker’s view resonates even among the most vocal critics of Marcos, except of course President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who on May 19 told The Wall Street Journal, “So the rejection of his version of reality is very gratifying,” referring to Marcos, who during the political campaign had opted not to be drawn into talks about the administration of his father, late former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Aquino was actually saying he was happy that the senator was “beaten” by Robredo (you can’t get any more Christian than that, can you?).
With the President as a role model, it is then no surprise for the congresswoman from Bicol to come off as a “victor” on the verge who will take no prisoners.
In contrast, the “non-winner” in the younger Marcos chose, in an ironic twist, to take the daang matuwid or straight path (touché!) of bringing his concerns about possible irregularities that may have been caused by the script change in the Comelec’s transparency server.
Daang matuwid, of course, is the Aquino administration’s good governance mantra that is apparently observed more in the breach and not just by Aquino himself (hello DAP, hello PDAF!).
The senator was not even alleging cheating but that the Comelec could perhaps consider conducting a forensic examination of the votes from the May 9 balloting, particularly those from the vice presidential derby, to see if the Smartmatic guy who “breached protocol” by interfering with the poll body’s server could have unwittingly caused the numbers to favor Robredo.
A win is a deserved win if it is untainted and Robredo had better let the people judge her just like what the Romans did with Caesar’s wife.
Or she could go the way of Florence Griffith Joyner, endearingly called Flo Jo by her fans, who won three gold medals in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
The toast of the Olympiad and the track and field world after winning the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints and the 4×100 meter relay, there, however, were speculations that she was not entirely “clean.”
Or Robredo could also go the way of Michelle Smith.