• COMMENTARY

    ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’: Enter the ballot snatchers

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    With many groups and individuals crucifying presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte for his  contemptuously haughty “joke” about rape victims, potential poll cheats cannot be any happier or busier because the spotlight has spared them temporarily but not the macho man of a Davao City mayor who may have watched Last Exit to Brooklyn many times more than he should.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd, however, this week assured that he has “no plan to allow cheating to happen here [in next month’s synchronized local and national elections].”

    He explained to Calbayog City folk in Samar on April 18, “There’s a joke that in the Philippines, there are two candidates – the winners and those who were cheated. But I have never cheated in all my life.”

    We do not doubt his statement but does the President know something that we don’t, or he would not have been defensive about a possible mockery of the electoral process on May 9?

    If he does, then he should allay fears of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in particular, that the coming polls could be anything but honest and transparent, especially if the electorate became less vigilant in guarding the ballot from the perceived cheating machines of the entrenched in power and influence.

    After all, the Commander-in-Chief was reported to have said several weeks ago that anybody but Bongbong as the country’s next Vice President would be fine by him.

    We know the President’s story – the senator is his father’s keeper, the Marcos patriarch’s “sins” are for Bongbong to atone for, no one from the Ilocano clan should be allowed to ever set foot in Malacañang again.

    The bad news for him is that Marcos, according to the latest surveys, is padding his lead over his closest rivals for Vice President less than three weeks before the balloting.

    Last March, the senator said he has “good chances of winning if the elections are clean and fair.”

    At the same time, Marcos, however, noted that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) sending “mixed signals in the conduct of the elections do not bode well for the credibility of the poll body.”

    Such signals, the senator said, are “postponement” of the elections, return to “manual voting” and “non-issuance of receipts” by Vote Counting Machines or VCMs.

    Resetting the polls seems to be gaining ground, based on the Luzon Grid suffering from deficiency in power supply last week and Mindanao reportedly experiencing eight- to 10-hour brownouts in the past few weeks.

    In an apparent bid to justify the outages, energy authorities pointed to maintenance shutdowns that inexplicably were scheduled to coincide with the Comelec’s already frantic preparations for Election Day.

    Of course, the commission could just say dismissively that no elections can be held in the dark, breaking its mandate to conduct the polls on May 9, not earlier, not later.

    Returning to manual voting looms, also as a result of lack of electricity, in a throwback to pre-internet times and in disregard of what the Automated Election Law is all about.

    The VCMs not issuing receipts could only mean that the Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT, one of four security features that has been restored by the poll body, is not up to the job of providing via receipts feedback to voters.

    Even if Bongbong were on the mark on the mixed signals, the May 9 electoral exercise will still have to be held, despite the Comelec having proved its incompetence, simply because the poll body cannot flout the law as it pleases.

    The commission saving face, however, would cost the nation more time and even more money and give elbow room to those who may have tinkered with undermining the democratic process of picking the country’s next leader.

    It is a no-brainer that with organized chaos swirling around the electorate, all the best laid plans of the Comelec would get lost in the translation – from the counting of the votes cast to the transmitting of the returns, from the VCMs failing to issue receipts to the ballots ending up in some warehouse.

    The utter confusion opens windows of opportunities to those bent on making the elections anything but “clean and fair,” as Bongbong put it.

    Prove this Marcos and other seemingly disadvantaged candidates wrong, Mr. President, and you can ride into the sunset with whatever legacy you may have wished to leave the people.

    Deliver on your Calbayog Covenant.

    Otherwise, you will have taken to heart the Filipino saying, Naghangad ng kagitna, isang salop ang nawala.

    Translation: You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

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