EDSA and the Aquinos
Thirty years after the triumph of “people power” at EDSA on February 25, 1986, we have had two dynastic presidents from Benigno Aquino Jr’s family— Ninoy Aquino’s widow Corazon Cojuangco Aquino from 1986 to 1992, and her son B. S. Aquino 3rd from 2010 to date. They have kept alive the fierce diatribe against Ferdinand Marcos, but have not advanced the nation’s agenda into the future one bit. The “restoration of our democracy” by our “bloodless revolution” failed to bring in any revolutionary change.
The old oligarchy, which Marcos had tried to dismantle, is firmly back on the saddle, infinitely stronger, and in control of the most powerful levers of government, the biggest and most important government contracts, and various constitutional processes. The poor have simply grown in number, with the level of poverty unspeakably worse than before.
The communist armed insurgency, which the late former Senator Ninoy Aquino had been accused of supporting when he brought together the Communist Party chairman Jose Maria Sison and the New People’s Army Supremo Bernabe Buscayno aka Commander Dante in one historic meeting, and which finally compelled Marcos to proclaim martial law in 1972, remains an unliquidated problem, even after some communists or former communists have entered Congress as party-list members.
The US military bases, which were closed down in 1991 and whose proposed 10-year renewal under a new treaty was voted down by the Senate, as an assertion of the nationalist spirit of EDSA, are back for all intents and purposes, through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US, which PNoy signed as an “executive agreement,” without the concurrence of the Senate.
Cory became president of the “revolutionary government” after the US-assisted and civilian-backed military coup ousted Marcos, and continued in office after the promulgation of the 1987 Constitution, which provides in Article XVIII, Sec. 5 that, “The six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice President elected in the February 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992.”
This is an obscure and unexamined constitutional provision, which refers to the “President and Vice President elected in the February 7, 1986 election,” rather than to those who came to power by virtue of the “revolution.” It was Marcos and his vice presidential candidate who officially won that presidential snap election, and although the EDSA revolt brushed aside the results of that election, the revolutionary government never formally cancelled them nor declared the “election” of Cory Aquino and Salvador “Doy” Laurel. Their six-and-a half years in office, after the “revolutionary government,” was therefore constitutionally questionable.
On his part, PNoy came into the presidency after his mother’s death from natural causes, unvetted and without any palpable qualification for the most important job in government, except that he was his parents’ only son, through the mercy of the equally unvetted precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine. While continuing to attack Marcos for his “dictatorship,” he has seized virtual control of the three branches of government by bribing members of Congress to impeach and remove Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona , thereby putting the other Justices on notice that anyone of them could be similarly removed, and by taking over the Congress’ power of the purse, which allowed him to siphon off hundreds of billions of pesos from the General Appropriations Act into unlegislated program under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which the Supreme Court, despite its known political vulnerabilities, has unanimously struck down as unconstitutional.
As Aquino faces the end of his term, his principal concern appears to be how to prevent Sen. Bongbong Marcos from getting elected as Vice President, and how to ensure the election of a successor who would guarantee his continued immunity from persecution once he leaves office. Both seem impossible. Bongbong Marcos appears unstoppable. And the failure of his anointed heir, Mar Roxas, to generate public support appears to have prompted him to consider shifting his support to Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, a former American citizen with an American husband and children whom the Commission on Elections has disqualified, for not being a natural-born citizen and for lacking the 10-year residency requirement.
The Comelec ruling has been temporarily restrained by the Supreme Court, but the nation may not be able to survive a constitutional crisis should the Court declare Mrs. Llamanzares a qualified resident, and a natural-born citizen.
Largely because of this, there is a growing perception that there will be massive cheating in the elections. Four out of ten individuals polled reportedly express such fear. And official reactions to the reported poll have been most disheartening. Most disturbing is the quote from Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista: “I won’t say that cheating is impossible since there is no system that cannot be hacked. But I can say that since 2010, there is no evidence that there has been cheating, using the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machine… When I was appointed…, I wanted to improve the image of Comelec. But this is a work in progress, and change does not happen overnight.”
If Bautista’s intention was to assuage any fear of wholesale electoral fraud, he just achieved the exact opposite result. Mere apprehension may have hardened into firm belief that the elections will be anything but clean, honest, transparent and credible.
Examine closely what he is saying.
First, “I won’t say that cheating is impossible since there is no system that cannot be hacked.”
As a philosophical proposition, this is absolutely correct. No system is absolutely fool-proof. Not even the Pentagon is beyond breach. But he has completely missed the point. We don’t need an academic discussion about systems that cannot be cracked. We simply want to be assured that the Comelec and its foreign partner Smartmatic are doing everything to prevent any cheating rather than getting involved in the cheating themselves. We want Bautista to assure us that the voting machine will have all the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms, which the Comelec and Smartmatic had earlier removed illegally in the 2010 and 2013 elections, without any criminal sanctions against those who did it.
This is now the subject of a Supreme Court petition filed by former senator and now senatorial candidate Richard Gordon, which focuses on the Voter Verification Paper Audit Trail. But an earlier petition, filed by the UP-based CENPEG (Center for People Empowerment and Governance) last year, seeks the restoration of thirteen, not just four, security features. That petition now appears ready for resolution.
What Bautista can do
Without waiting for the SC ruling, the Bautista Comelec can even now order the restoration of all those features. For him to talk of being unable to guarantee a fool-proof voting system is a cheap cop-out; in this season of Lent, this is Pilate washing his hands of the crime the mob at his court will commit against “this Just Man.”
Bautista says–and this is the second unfortunate part of his statement: “But I can say that since 2010, there is no evidence that there has been cheating, using the PCOS machine.”
Where has he been all these years? Why is he in the Comelec at all? Even if he had been travelling to Mars, he would have learned of the ugly facts by now, by simply reviewing the records or by listening to Tandem (Tanggulang Demokraskya), AES (Automated Election System) Watch, the Philippine Computer Society, or CPA-Lawyer Glenn Chong, former congressman of Biliran, who has credibly documented the “hocus PCOS” in those elections.
At least one petition has been filed before the High Court by lawyer Homobono Adaza and broadcaster Herman Tiu Laurel, seeking to annul the last presidential election. This has not moved at all, so Bautista is technically correct in saying that “no evidence” exists to show that cheating has been committed through the PCOS machine from 2010.
Illegitimate and void
But the legitimacy of the elections and the validity of the results are clearly constitutionally questionable. First of all, the Comelec alone has the constitutional mandate to conduct elections. There is no room for an external private partner, especially a foreign commercial firm, to perform any of its exclusive functions. But from 2010 through 2013 Smartmatic has been running the election, and will again run it this year. This is anathema to the sovereignty and dignity of our nation.
Moreover, one of the world’s leading auditing firms, based in London, has revealed, in a report to the House of Commons, that Smartmatic (Philippines) is a wholly-owned foreign subsidiary with no legal personality to transact business here. The Comelec should have exerted due diligence to verify this serious allegation.
PNoy’s 5-M margin
After the Comelec and Smartmatic had illegally divested the voting machine of all its security features, what kind of results do you expect from the machine? Do you still need to see the bogus results? You don’t, but they exist. In 2010, B. S. Aquino 3rd got his five million-vote plurality over Erap Estrada after he announced that he expected to obtain such a plurality over his closest rival, but that the outgoing president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, would rob him of his victory, so he would have to stage a “people’s power” revolt to assume power. And GMA succumbed, to her–and our great– misfortune. She is now in jail, and the rest of us in our own cells.
Grace Poe’s 20-M votes
In 2013, the Grace Poe Llamanzares project, which is now in full swing, began to rear its head. Using his infamous 60-30-10 formula, in which his senatorial candidates got 60 percent of the votes, the opposition got 30 percent and the “independents” 10 percent in almost every precinct including those where they were hardly known, PNoy made Llamanzares the Number One senatorial winner, to everyone’s surprise, including her own. .
A couple of days after the election, with only a few thousand precincts accounted for, she posted 20 million votes, creating a minor panic among the political operators. They had to trim down her votes to 16 million, and go back to 20 million only at the end of the count.
No evidence? Where was Bautista during all this time? And where exactly is he now?
Reality, not image
“I want to improve the image of the Comelec. But this is a work in progress and change does not happen overnight.”
Mr. Chairman, image-making is the game of political hacks, trapos and cheap propagandists. It is the objective reality you must change. And you do not need light years. It took the Comelec one unconstitutional and malevolent resolution under then Chairman Jose Melo to completely destroy the security features and accuracy mechanisms of the PCOS machine; it needs only one decisive Comelec resolution to reinstate those features and hopefully restore to reasonably good health the state of our elections.
All it needs is a little patriotism, courage and determination. There is certainly no money in it, but it could earn you the admiration, respect and gratitude of your countrymen. Why don’t you do it now? You’ll have nothing to lose but your “chains.”
In this penitential season, when even non-Christians seem to think of the transcendental values that give life its deeper purpose and meaning, men in power would do well to do a little eschatology and think of the last things. The world is ending, life is ending, and certainly this ruinous regime is ending. Why doesn’t the Comelec lead in trying to create a moral and political order that we will all want to keep after this terrible nightmare is over?