Doomsday scenario at Ateneo
While terrorist attacks in Brussels and Lahore occupied the world headlines, and suspected ISIS-trained jihadists were reported to have set up camp in Muslim Mindanao, a doomsday scenario momentarily descended upon Ateneo University in Quezon City on Monday after it got a text message at 8:30 a.m. saying a “large explosion” would rip off the campus at 9 a.m. Happily, it turned out to be a hoax. But its effect on the political “atmosphere” cannot be quantified.
School authorities promptly sought police assistance and ordered all buildings evacuated at 9 a.m. By 9:55 a.m., the authorities announced, “we are currently on campus lockdown due to a bomb threat.” Police anti-bomb squads and K-9 units swept the entire area not once but twice, and finding no explosive device, declared it safe for occupancy by 2 p.m. Classes resumed yesterday under much more stringent precautionary measures.
This was not the first time it happened to this school. A year ago or so, something similar happened, according to some Ateneans. Then, as now, it turned out to be a sick prank. But had the threat been real, the casualties could have been high because of the limited time to evacuate the buildings. The explosion was supposed to occur at 9 a.m. but the evacuation started only at 9 a.m. The Grade School alone finished clearing its classrooms at 10.30 a.m., according to reports, mainly because the students were all young children who needed to be turned over to their parents or guardians who had to be individually notified.
Imagine if there had been a bomb, and it had gone off, as announced!
A personal flashback
Twice in my life I have figured in a similar “threat” situation, and I can tell you it’s no joke.
In 1970, while my wife and I were flying from London to New York on our honeymoon, our PanAm 747 aircraft got an urgent message as it approached Bangor, Maine, saying a bomb had been planted on board and was due to explode in 15 minutes. Without any word to the passengers, the captain brought down the plane to the ground in half that time, and we all had to sit at Bangor’s abandoned airport facility for hours while anti-bomb experts combed every inch of the aircraft.
No bomb was found, but PanAm sent a new plane to pick up all the anxious passengers.
At home a few years later, my wife and I joined the Indonesian Ambassador and the world-famous Indonesian designer Irwan Tirta, at a Batik fashion show in a major hotel. As the show was about to start, the organizers got a telephone call saying a bomb had been planted under the ramp and was set to go off anytime. The message was passed on to me, and I passed it on to the Ambassador, who was my host. But he put it back to me saying I was the highest ranking Philippine official around (I was presidential spokesman and Secretary of Public Information), and should officially handle it.
There was no time to argue, so I took the microphone and without saying a word about the threat, asked everyone to transfer to the adjoining hall while “certain adjustments” were being made on the ramp where the models would walk. This was quickly and quietly executed in about three minutes. The anti-bomb squad came, swept the area and found nothing. But having done my part, I thanked the Ambassador and asked to retire. The ISIS did not exist then, and we were not in the middle of any complex political situation threatened by so much disorder at every turn. So that ended rather well.
This is not our situation now. The nation seems ready to explode not because the Islamic Caliphate has arrived, but because the campaign for the May 9, 2016 elections has generated more threats than opportunities. A number of scenarios threaten to unfold, but what the major players will do at any particular time is anybody’s guess.
After Bongbong, who?
People have stopped me at airports, restaurants and even in churches to ask whom to vote for, aside from Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., who is running only for Vice President. But they throw up their hands in apparent resignation when I ask them in turn whether they are sure we are going to have a clean, honest, transparent and credible election. This remains the most fundamental question, to which there seems to be no easy answer. Just exactly what kind of elections are we going to have?
None of the major players (sorry to say this) seem interested in preventing a rigged election. Everyone seems more interested in making sure that they, rather than others, benefit from the cheating. Aside from lunatics like myself, my lawyer Manny Luna, my NTC colleague Glenn Chong, Greco Belgica, and friends at CENPEG, TanDem, AES Watch, National Computer Society, etc., who insist that a clean, honest, transparent and credible election is a conditio sine qua non to the rebirth of our failed democracy, and that Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista guarantee such an election, the rabble seems ready to accept whatever atrocity the oligarchic elite inflicts upon them.
They have survived rotten elections before, they will survive another such atrocity again.
The VVPAT issue
It is now made to appear that our battle will be won or lost on the issue of the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT), or voter’s receipt, which is provided by law, but which the Comelec and its foreign partner Smartmatic had removed from the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine in the 2010 and 2013 elections, and do not want to install into the “new” Vote Counting Machine (VCM). The Supreme Court has ordered the Comelec to restore this particular feature, which is but one of several safety features whose removal from the machine had rendered the results of the voting completely unacceptable. But the Comelec has invoked every silly excuse to say that it could only provide a “non-receipt” that contains no useful information about the source and other details about the audit trail.
While public attention is focused on this issue, the real play, aside from the Grace Poe Llamanzares issue which we shall discuss later, revolves around control of the National Technical Support Center, which plays a critical role in the transmission of the votes from the voting centers. Smartmatic originally lost the bid for this facility, but did everything to wrest the contract from the winning bidder. The original winner is now trying to recover its contract, against formidable legal and financial odds.
The ViaSat system
Equally undiscussed in the media are the efforts of various presidential camps to acquire ViaSat terminals capable of creating a parallel transmission system under their control. Highly reliable sources claim that the Grace Poe Llamanzares camp, for instance, has acquired a large quantity of ViaSat terminals from the United States, to be operated by a group headed by a former director of Smartmatic.
For its part, Smartmatic was reported to have acquired a new Brazilian partner, using a local firm allegedly owned by a known supporter of Mrs. Llamanzares, to operate its ViaSat system during the elections. Smartmatic used to work with WIT (We are IT), a Filipino firm that has provided ViaSat connectivity since early 2000, but ditched its old partner in preparation for the 2016 elections. So the Comelec has completely outsourced its ViaSat requirements to foreigners.
More massive than RM
But as elaborate as the technical preparations for rigging the elections may appear, the more frightening thing has to do with the massive propaganda effort to sell Mrs. Llamanzares as “the next President of the Philippines,” regardless of her lack of character and patriotic worth. From one deceptive survey to another, from one paid interview to another, from one social media post showing her in “deep prayer” while surrounded by photographers inside a church to another, Mrs. Llamanzares is being marketed to the nation with the use of money that cannot be legally or ethically explained, in ways far more sophisticated than Ramon Magsaysay was marketed to a generation of brown Americans by the CIA’s Col. Eduard G. Lansdale.
None of the numerous and increasingly frequent and fraudulent propaganda surveys ever bothered to ask whether or not Filipinos believe Mrs. Llamanzares is a natural-born citizen; whether or not the Supreme Court Justices did the right thing in pronouncing her natural-born by statistical probability, a disputable presumption, and by operation of the equal protection of the law and social justice; whether or not a former American citizen with an American husband and children should be considered for the Philippine presidency; whether her personal character reflects her perpetually white garment, or whether she uses white precisely to conceal her personal vices; whether having lied consistently under oath about her personal circumstances, she has a right to accuse anyone of corruption without proof, knowing it was Susan Roces, her adoptive mother, who famously said, “ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw” (the liar is a sister to the thief).
None of the alleged surveys ever bothered to ask whether Filipinos believe that one reason Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, for instance, voted to declare Mrs. Llamanzares a bona fide candidate, without any constitutional basis, was because she was afraid of being impeached and removed under a new president, unless it would be Mrs. Llamanzares. It is not the Constitution she wants to preserve but herself.
The obvious purpose of the massive all-around pro-Llamanzares propaganda campaign is to prevent honest and curious citizens from asking serious questions about her, and to encourage the Justices who have buried their honor and their heads along with the Constitution, the law and jurisprudence in the desert sand to keep that same accursed posture while doomsday threatens to engulf our republic.