We have every reason to stop it, but do we have the will to do so?
Aside from the unresolved concerns about the padded voters’ list, the lack of security and security features of the “vote counting machine,” the obvious capability and plan of the various presidential parties to electronically intervene in the counting, transmission and final tabulation of votes on May 9, proof has surfaced showing the illegal pre-shading of the ballots.
I shave received online a specimen of such ballots, reportedly retrieved from the National Printing Office, and purportedly intended to favor presidential candidate Grace Poe Llamanzares and her running mate Francis Escudero. The “pre-shading” is not visible to the naked eye, so further verification is needed.
Ballots that do not carry votes for any presidential or vice presidential candidate—there could be many such ballots—will automatically be read in favor of Poe and Escudero, while ballots that carry votes for any other presidential or vice-presidential candidate will be automatically invalidated. Over-votes.
This seriously threatens the entire process from its very first stage. Unless adequately addressed, every aspect of the automated election, from voting to counting to transmission to tabulation, etc., will be hopelessly compromised. The affected presidential parties should demand an on-the-spot inspection and inventory of all the ballots before they are distributed—assuming it is not yet too late. If not, they should all demand a cancellation of the entire process.
The Comelec should support such a move.
In addition to this issue, “rogue” computer machines have reportedly been prepositioned to take part in the election. This happened before. In 2010, 60 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines were found in the house of a Smartmatic-TIM technician in Antipolo. These were believed to have been used in rigging the elections in favor of presidential candidate B.S. Aquino 3rd.
In 2013, 18,000 PCOS machines had problems transmitting because of corrupted compact flash cards and related issues. In that election, 59,666 precincts all over the country had uniform results in favor of Aquino’s senatorial candidates, led by Grace Poe Llamanzares. They swept the polls, 60-30-10, even in areas where they were not known.
MAC and IP addresses
To check these “rogue” machines, private citizen Al S. Vitangcol III, a practising lawyer, has asked the Supreme Court to require the Comelec to make an inventory of the Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of all its vote counting machines, computers, servers, and transmission devices which will be used on May 9, and list all Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used in its Virtual Private Network, together with their geographical locations.
The purpose is to monitor all election-related transmissions, and track down anything unauthorized or illegal. But between now and election day, the Court may not have time to rule and Comelec not enough time to implement an order. Today, the Court will be honoring its departed former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who died on April 29, and may have to set aside regular official business for the day.
In addition to all this, the Technical Evaluation Committee of the Automated Election Law (RA 9396) has failed to comply with Sec. 11 of such law, which requires the Committee to “certify, through an established international certification entity, to be chosen by the Committee from the recommendations of the Advisory Council, not later than three months before the date of the electoral exercise, categorically stating that the AES, including its hardware and software components, is operating properly, securely and accurately, in accordance with the provisions of this Act.”
The committee is chaired by the Department of Science and Technology, with the Comelec and the Commission on Information and Communication Technology as members. This law should have been complied with in February. Without such compliance, the election would be illegitimate and illegal.
On April 29, the National Transformation Council, which stands for regime change, issued a statement calling on the voters to reject the election, if in their judgment it will not lift us from the status quo. Today the NTC is expected to follow up on that statement in a press conference at Anabel’s Quezon City.
Last Wednesday, the NTC held a necrological service in honor of Corona, a founding NTC member. Archbishop Emeritus of Davao and former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, and Archbishop Emeritus of Lingayen-Dagupan and also former CBCP president Oscar Cruz concelebrated Mass at Heritage Park in Taguig in honor of the deceased. Former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Reverend Pastor Art Corpuz, Save the Nation Movement convenor Antonio “Butch” Valdes, Archbishop Arguelles and I offered short eulogies.
I did not have a clean copy of my talk for those who asked for it, so I promised to run it in my column today. I hope my readers would forgive me for deviating from the hot political issues of the day.
A ttribute to Chief Justice Renato Corona
IN this gathering of family and friends, we can only hope and try to console Tina, Carla, Francis, Charina, and the entire Corona family, and indeed our own selves too, on the profound loss we all share upon the passing of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. But we can add nothing to what the good Lord knows and has to say about our dear departed brother and friend Rene. God loved him in a special way, and he tried to correspond with all his imperfections and human weaknesses: so we pray, as we have prayed these last few days, that the good Lord will consider only his love and loyalty and not his human frailties.
He lived a simple Christian life devoted to the service of God, family and country.
Simplicity and humility were the first virtues that shone out of his noble character and attracted his brethren on the Court, as Justice Roberto Abad told us last Sunday. But I did not have to hear it from Justice Abad: these were precisely the same qualities I saw in him when he and his brother “Toti” started working with me at the Department of Public Information in the seventies.
I have no doubt that aside from his enormous brain and devastatingly good looks, these too were among the first qualities that drew Tina to his bosom when she consented to become his blushing bride in a wedding ceremony where I was privileged to stand as “ninong” (sponsor).
Like the biblical Nathaniel, there was no guile in him. He took his faith seriously and tried to live it intensely. This is why, as his former brethren would attest, there never was a hint or breath of wrongdoing against him in the corridors of the High Court that has lately come into so much controversy and disrepute. He was a just man immersed in the love and holy fear of his Maker.
On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, following the disciples’ miraculous catch of fish after that long empty night, our Lord asked his disciple Peter, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, my Lord,” Peter answered. Three times our Lord asked him, and three times he answered, and on the third time he finally said, hurting a little bit, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.”
Our brother and friend Rene did not have to repeat those words; he tried to live them every day in the service of God, family and country; he was the good and ever faithful servant. So God has called him to His presence, and we mourn his passing, human as we are.
Upon Lazarus’s death, Martha and then Mary told our Lord, one after the other, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” This moved our Lord to tears, and moved him to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead after having been entombed for four days.
Well, our Lord has never left Rene’s side from the moment he was baptized and incorporated into the assembly of the people of God under our Lord Jesus Christ. He never left him even when his enemies tried to take away his basic human dignity which he had received from birth.
And still, like Lazarus, he died. Why is that? Why? Because our Lord, who has resurrected and conquered death, wanted to tell him that his special earthly mission was over and that he could now enter into the eternal joy of his Presence where there is no more doubt nor darkness nor pain nor grief nor despair.
The poet T.S. Eliot has a beautiful stanza in Little Gidding: We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
This is like dying, but death is more than this. It reaffirms our inextinguishable union with God.
We begin with God, and we end with God. In philosophy, we call this our First and Last End.
We are never to veer away from this. Sister Death, as Francis of Assisi calls her, interrupts our journey only to transport the good and faithful servant to another world where eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them that loved Him.
This is where we all hope to be reunited to all our loved ones after our earthly toil, and this is where we hope and pray our Lord has taken our dear departed brother and friend. God wants a handful of men of his own in every human activity, writes a great saint, so that the peace and glory of Christ may reign in the kingdom of Christ.
And He placed Rene in the vineyard of the Judiciary to fertilize and nourish the Tree of Justice with the truth and love of the law, honor and personal sacrifice, so that it may bear the most abundant fruits. This entailed giving himself completely and unconditionally to the work at hand, even, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the ill-willed and the unjust.
In Thomas More’s time, this might have earned him certain martyrdom—he might have had to pay for it with his blood. But even martyrdom has changed its manners and dress—as the infamous impeachment trial has shown, they destroy your honor while sparing your life. But it is martyrdom nonetheless.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that in this Rene found his “perfect joy.” Why perfect joy? What do I mean by perfect joy? St. Francis of Assisi defines perfect joy as that which fills a pilgrim’s soul when after a long and terrible journey through wind and rain and snows and storms, he finally reaches his destination hungry and tired, but finds his longed-for lodging already closed for the night, and instead of being welcomed with a bowl of soup, bath and bed, is driven away with curses and threats, and is forced to spend the rest of the evening in stormy weather outside. In that situation, the pilgrim finds himself close to the suffering endured by Christ. He becomes another Christ—alter Christus, if not Christ himself.
This was how I looked at Rene Corona as he sat in that rigged impeachment court.
No disciple is ever above his master. As our Lord drank the cup according to the Father’s will, so did our departed brother and friend drink his. He died embracing the Lord, and being embraced by Him. In God’s grace, he lives, and will live on forever. God bless us all.