Amid the clear violations of the automated election law, and widespread fear of massive electoral fraud, the May 9 presidential polls reported an incredible turnout of 81 percent, and gave PDP presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte a roaring landslide, which President B.S. Aquino 3rd and the other presidential candidates will be hard put to challenge, even if they should want to.
But they obviously do not want to. Contrary to our earlier fears that none of the losing presidential candidates would recognize the winner, none of them have questioned the apparent landslide of Mayor Duterte. Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, whose doubtful natural-born Filipino citizenship has sown doubts and confusion upon the entire presidential process, was the first to concede defeat after Duterte posted 14.4 million votes out of 41 million votes reportedly cast and 37 million counted.
Roxas followed suit on Tuesday afternoon, after the unofficial quick count gave Duterte 15,245,930 votes, Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas 9,183,938 votes, and Mrs. Llamanzares 8,542,159 votes.
But trouble could be brewing in the vice-presidential race.
Saved from Grace
Many found Duterte the most dangerous man to put in high office. For this reason, they hoped UNA’s Vice President Jejomar C. Binay would perform a miracle, or that the LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas could catch up. But even those who did not vote for him are now genuinely grateful that he made sure that a former American citizen with a natural-born American husband and of no known biological parentage would be sitting as our President just because nine Supreme Court Justices had decided, against the clear language and spirit of the Constitution, that Mrs. Llamanzares was “qualified” to run for President.
That Supreme Court ruling destroyed the Constitution, the Court itself and the presidential system, which requires a president to be, among other things, a natural-born citizen who has lived in the country for at least 10 years immediately preceding the elections. I didn’t think I could, as lead petitioner before the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court against the Llamanzares candidacy, live with that. I worried more about having someone of questionable citizenship in the presidency than having someone who had killed criminals in his war against crime.
My young daughter had warned me, “If Grace Poe wins, you’ll have to look for another country, Dad.” And she may not even want to join me. The trouble is, I am too old and too set in my ways to think of joining so many disgruntled American migrants to Canada. But while I thought I had every reason to be concerned about the kind of language I was hearing from the macho candidate, I could not help but suspect he was doing it all or effect. He knew the crowd loved it and the media lapped it up, and he played to the media and the crowd. And he didn’t have to burn hundreds of millions of pesos on TV ads.
But I had very little doubt that should he win the presidency, he would quickly discover that the office has its own rules, norms and discourse, which he would be compelled to recognize and accept, regardless of his own unique style of leadership. We shall see what happens when Duterte takes power after June 30.
Meanwhile, the electoral battle has shifted to the vice presidency. In that race, Independent vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos, Jr. had been leading LP’s Leni Robredo all day of Monday by as much as close to a million votes. All internal exit polls showed the same results; even the notorious Social Weather Stations, which managed to fudge the exit poll in 2004, showed Marcos ahead with 34.9 percent against Robredo’s 32.5 percent.
But by 4 a.m. of Tuesday, with some 4 million votes of the reported turnout unaccounted for, Robredo suddenly overtook Marcos. At press time Tuesday, she had 13,740,668 votes against Marcos’s 13,551,082 votes.
The tally is unofficial, and does not identify the specific sources of the votes. The Marcos camp has called for a stop to the unofficial quick count, and asked those reporting the votes to specifically identify the places they are coming from. This is a valid request since the Official Count has already begun, but someone at the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting insists on continuing with the unofficial count. Sounds fishy to a lot of people.
Sources at the Duterte camp suggest that Robredo’s votes have been padded to a significant extent at this point, and that Sen. Francis Escudero, who has been trailing Bongbong and Leni from the very start, may have agreed to transfer some of his votes to Robredo. This speculation appears to find support in one so-called “honest mistake” where 36,422 votes were removed from Escudero and 35,668 votes added to Robredo in the unofficial count. This was reported by GMA-7 and CNN. GMA said it committed a mistake, but the fact that another network carried the same “mistake” meant that the “error” occurred at the source—the Comelec—rather than at the reporting outlets.
What is happening in this race appears to confirm everything that has been reported about Aquino’s plan to prevent Marcos from becoming the Vice President. In a meeting before the election, LP top dogs and Aquino’s principal advisers were reported to have agreed that Roxas had lost the fight, and that their best shot would be to fight rear guard action in the vice presidential race. Everything had to be done to make Robredo the Vice President so she could succeed Duterte after he is removed by impeachment.
This meant that some 3 million “floating ballots” allegedly reserved for Roxas’ special operations, if Duterte’s edge was smaller than 3 million, should be diverted to Robredo so she could prevail over Bongbong as a first step in ousting Duterte after June 30. This was the same plan the Roxas camp had in 2010 when Mar Roxas slid down to the position of vice presidential candidate. His advisers were confident that the LP could impeach and remove PNoy after a few months, and put his VP in office, but some of PNoy’s relatives got wind of it, and supported Jojo Binay instead.
This also explains the reported unprecedented turnout of 81 percent. The usual average is 65 percent. By inflating the “number of voters who voted,” it becomes easier to play around with the votes of the candidates. This is an old malpractice, which some operatives tried to inflict on the 1995 midterm elections, purposely to shut me out and a few others from the senatorial race. Luckily, I got wind of it and was able to stop it.
A few days before the election, I met PNoy’s political secretary by chance and he admitted that Sen. Antonio Trilllanes IV’s demolition effort against Duterte had failed, and that the tough-talking mayor had become unstoppable. Aquino needed to adopt a different approach.
PNoy had thrown almost every resource into the campaign to make sure that the next president would protect him from any legal harm. He even mobilized his youngest sister Kris, the country’s No. 1 product TV endorser, to appear in Roxas’s and Robredo’s TV commercials to boost their propaganda ratings. This apparently did not help much.
Most embarrassing of all, PNoy tried to bamboozle the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo, whose more than 2 million members normally vote as a bloc, into supporting Roxas and Robredo, only to be spurned by the sect that had supported him enthusiastically in 2010. At one point, the INC leadership reportedly even considered supporting UNA’s Vice President Jejomar Binay, but never Aquino’s recommendees.
He also warned voters openly about the dangers of having a “dictator Duterte.” But more than that, he threatened to lead a “people power revolt” should the son and namesake of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos win. That carried the risk of a lameduck president calling for a march against a popular vice-president-elect, without anyone heeding his call. So he apparently decided to do everything to try to prevent Bongbong from winning. Leni Robredo may not even be aware of what Malacañang is doing to use her for its plans.
Aquino cannot afford to fail. His main concern is how to escape imprisonment should the incoming President decide to treat him in the same manner as he had treated his immediate predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and the three opposition senators who had helped him to convict Corona at his Senate impeachment trial. He has jailed Arroyo, and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla, Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile on non-bailable offenses, except that the court has recently allowed Enrile to post bail for reasons of health and age.
His treatment of Arroyo is in utter contrast to the humanitarian treatment his father, the late former Senator “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., got from Marcos during his imprisonment. Although Ninoy had been sentenced to death by a military tribunal for his crimes, Marcos gave him a medical furlough so he could undergo a heart surgery in Boston, Massachusetts, where he stayed for three years.
As for the opposition senators, they remain under prosecution while Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the so-called “P10-billion pork barrel scam,” remains virtually untouched; she had been detained for “serious illegal detention” of a former employee and whistleblower, but she was recently allowed to post bail. And not a single big fish is in jail for the misuse of the P150-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional, and its manipulation and misuse, criminal.
Killing all criminals
Duterte has captured the voters’ popular imagination for his promise to end corruption and crime by “killing all criminals.” This obviously compelled Malacañang and his rivals not to fool around with him. They were also put on notice that aside from retired military officers in his camp, some leftist groups had threatened to march with Duterte if he was cheated in this election.
But Aquino probably believes that in a fight with the Marcoses, the population will side with him, and that he could easily take down Bongbong. This could be a terrible miscalculation. Wherever one went, and whoever one asked before the election, one was told they were voting for Bongbong. Now everyone is asking, what happened to their votes? This is no longer a fight between the Aquinos and the Marcoses. This is now a fight between Aquino and the Filipino people.