BY the time this comes out, Congress, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, has already proclaimed the winners of the May 2016 elections. If President-elect Rodrigo Duterte was a no-show, it ushered in a break from tradition and the start of a new norm. We will have to get use to it as every change brings in a lot of adjustment. Clearly, Duterte wants to break from traditional mold, which could be good for the country in the end.
This was an election of so many firsts: for both the presidency and the vice presidency. Both came from cities outside of imperial Manila. Duterte would be the first Mindanaon to win the presidency while Robredo is the first woman-Bicolano to win the vice presidency. Both Duterte and Robredo jumped from local politics to national campaigns. Duterte served for decades, starting out as an OIC after Edsa while Robredo had three years of stint as a representative, who ran on the coattails of Jesse’s death.
Duterte pulled away from the pack with contrasting strategies in messaging, groundwork and online while Robredo had to battle it out, edging a Marcos! who relied heavily on ground war. Both Duterte and Robredo peaked at the right time in the 90-day campaign period. Both read and listened to the crowd correctly, whether that was online or offline. Both allowed critical nodes and parallels to do their own brand of campaigning, removing command control type of campaign to organic, creative and networked campaign.
Duterte had a small party, PDP-Laban, while Robredo had the incumbent party, full of financial muscle and machinery, which proved to be ironic in the end. Duterte’s was a campaign of sound bites and propaganda using much of authenticity while Robredo was contrasting herself from her party, her presidential candidate, the traditional nature of politics and introducing to the voters a Robredo-plus brand. Authenticity trumped Marcos’s pieces of baggage.
How Duterte and Robredo will work together for the next six years will be crucial to the Republic. Would Duterte tap Robredo for the position she was thinking on poverty alleviation? Would Robredo find her voice even without a Cabinet post? Would there be synergy between the two new leaders? The transition phase will be important for the two as all eyes will be looking at them as they hit ground by June 30.
Meanwhile, would the proclamation set aside claims of undervoting as evidence of fraud? Some quarters have pointed to a large undervote as being proof of electoral manipulation. Some twisted it further as 3.9 million undervotes were designed to shave votes from Marcos. So let a full-blown audit take place and let us rest old issues and new.
An undervote occurs when the “number of choices selected by a voter in an election contest is less than the maximum number allowed for that contest.” An undervote also occurs when “no vote is cast for a single choice contest.” For example, a voter that is permitted to cast one vote for a presidential candidate and does not select a candidate has undervoted. Voters have the right to undervote if they choose to do so. Unlike an overvote, a ballot will not be canceled or disqualified as the result of an undervote.
An undervote can be intentional for purposes including protest votes, tactical voting or abstention. Alternately, undervotes can be unintentional and caused by many factors including poor ballot design.
Undervote is not a new phenomenon. It has been in our system even during the manual voting—1998, 2004 and automated, 2010. In 2016, there is undervoting in Vice President (VP) and, once you compare, President (P) and VP.
In the VP race, undervoting is the number of invalid votes, which include ballots without votes for the VP, ballots with two shadings for VP, ballots invalidated because of shading, say, with a light dot that a machine can’t read, or tampered with ballots, etc. Undervotes for VP are said to be at 3.9 million (do not mix the missing votes because Comelec has to answer for that). 3.9 million = total votes cast (44,979,151) – actual votes counted for VP (41,066,884). 3.9 million is just within the norm. In previous elections, undervotes were: 1998 – 3.7 million; 2004 – 3.2 million; and 2010 – 3 million.
Again, when you look at undervoting between P and VP in 2016 (Total of Votes for P – Total of Votes for VP), the result is still within the norm: 1998 – 1.35 million; 2004 – 1.9 million; 2010 – 973,000; and 2016 – 1.4 million.
Undervoting occurs. You need to look into electoral behavior studies why Filipino voters do this. Take note that, historically, we do not do tandem voting. Filipino voters vote split because for them that is the best checks and balance. Is that good or bad? Depends on context. Is undervoting proof of fraud? Could be, if thresholds are set. But bear in mind the unintended consequences of higher undervotes and failure of elections.
Can we prevent undervoting? No, because we do not know what is in the mind of the voters. If we are to look for the smoking gun where, as alleged, undervoting was due to a script, then we should look at the software of the OS and the SD cards, right? The “undervotes” just show us a trend, at most within the norm of historical data. To connect undervotes to electoral fraud is to find fault when there is none.
So, proclaimed and all but, indeed, “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”