OH, for the good old–fashioned way of cheating in the polls!
Oops, can any kind of cheating be good? Oh well, when viewed in comparison to automated cheating, the old ways can be said to be better, right? Yeah, better in the sense that those can be more difficult to implement on a bigger scale and easier to detect.
We’re all too familiar with the charge of the “birds and the bees” voting in the 1949 presidential election contested by LP’s Elpidio Quirino and NP’s Jose P. Laurel. Laurel was aware of the anomaly, but desisted from lodging an election protest for fear that it might trigger an internecine war in a nation that had just suffered from the Japanese occupation.
Well, the voting of the “birds and the bees” didn’t end in 1949. In the 1986 snap presidential election, Sultan Omar Dianalan bared that in many towns in Lanao del Sur, there were more registered voters than actual residents. And what do you know! The turnout was even more than 100 percent of the registered voters.
One of my favorite anecdotes was that of the late Ali Dimaporo telling the late President Marcos—“You are leading by 100,000 votes. Tell me if you need more.” A Lanao del Sur political leader I talked with confirmed the veracity of this story.
Many shrewd politicians had several ghost precincts on call should these be needed. I learned later that what used to be mere ghost precincts had progressed into ghost barangays with ghost schools and ghost teachers. Ghost projects are regularly undertaken even under the “tuwid na daan” of BS Aquino, with or without ghost barangays, shown by the Napoles scandal.
This kind of cheating took place during martial law. Carling Padilla was leading Leonardo Perez in the 1984 Batasan election for the lone district of Nueva Vizcaya. Carling went to bed confident of winning. Then, he heard the news that armed men had hijacked ballot boxes being transported from Kayapa town to Bayombong, the provincial capital.
About two days later, the ballot boxes mysteriously reappeared. Carling said the boxes might have contained spurious returns and asked that they be excluded. His pleas were turned down and the returns from those “recovered” ballot boxes were instrumental in the proclamation of Perez as “winner.”
In a province in the Visayas, armed men who identified themselves as members of the New People’s Army swooped down on a town and took away firearms from the local police. What’s strange was that the “NPAs” also took with them the ballot boxes that were the subject of a protest in the recently concluded congressional election. Now, what could be in the ballot boxes that could interest the “NPA?”
Unlike those in Nueva Vizcaya, the ballot boxes in the Visayas province were never recovered. This needlessly prolonged the adjudication of the protest. The protesting candidate was later declared winner by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal but by then, there were only a few session days left before Congress adjourned for the next election.
A new look at ‘failure of elections’
Several years back, I asked a political leader in Muslim Mindanao why there were frequent “failure of elections” in the region. Why can’t election-related violence be minimized there?
The answer jolted me: “failure of election is not necessarily indicative of violence in the area.”
He said that if a town is peaceful, some leaders will initiate disturbances to force the deferment of the election.
“This will give them a more favorable position to sell votes to the highest bidder in a close senatorial contest,” he explained.
Now I know why there were ballot snatchings even in towns where local candidates were unopposed and why grenade blasts and gunfire usually injured no one.
“Ah, so the traditional leaders with command votes could now make more money,” I said.
He immediately corrected me. He said that sultans and datus no longer enjoy “command votes except in Maguindanao. (The Ampatuans were still supreme there then.)
“Voters no longer meekly obey the orders of their leaders unless they are given money,” he said.
This reminds me, a senatorial candidate once complained that he had spent more money in the special elections in the Muslim area than in the 90-day national campaign.