• What shall we do when we’re cheated?

    8

    A non-event
    The first presidential debate turned out unsurprisingly to be a non-starter and a non-event. No single candidate spoke to any particular issue with any kind of wit, substance or depth. They all seemed to be defensive about something–Mar Roxas, about his social media image as a hopeless failure and a wimp; Vice President Jojo Binay, about everything that has been thrown at him and his family by the Malacanang attack dogs; Mayor Duterte, about every vile thing that has cascaded out of his foul mouth; Miriam Defensor Santiago, about her reportedly failing health; and Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, about her questionable citizenship and residency and her lack of experience.

    The two-hour debate showed once more that you can only give what you have. You cannot draw fresh or seawater from the desert. In the completely non-exhilarating exchanges, the candidates tried to throw a punch, whenever they could, at their favorite adversaries instead of trying to enlighten the audience with wit and humor on any important point. Indeed, nothing shone or sparkled from any of the candidates.

    Contrast the US debates
    In the ongoing US Republican debates, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida just made one unforgettable quote: “I’d rather lose the election than be wrong on abortion.” I was hoping someone would say something half as courageous and as memorable as that. Or something half as witty as Ronald Reagan’s quip to the much younger Walter Mondale, who had wanted to put the former actor on the defensive because of his age, in their Kansas City1984 debate: “I will not make age an issue in this campaign, I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

    Mary Grace’s inexperience
    In Cagayan de Oro, Mrs. Llamanzares, whose rapid-fire, mechanical delivery made her sound like the even more mechanical Chiz Escudero, was the only debater who readily conceded one charge against her–that she does not have enough government experience. But the freshman senator, who is facing a disqualification suit before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the Supreme Court for her questionable citizenship, tried to spin it by saying, “There is no proof that you will do better because you have been in office longer.” It was a great opportunity for Mar Roxas, who had provoked the riposte, to point out that where experience is not enough, what is needed is more experience not a complete lack of it.

    But Roxas missed it.

    I hope we are not setting the bar too high. But no one came away from the Cagayan de Oro university hall or from their own TV sets feeling they had heard anything that offered instant gratification or left something on one’s mental palate.

    In the United States, the Democratic and Republican parties are counting on the ongoing debates to help them choose their respective presidential candidates. Once chosen, the opposing candidates will face off in a round of debates to give the American people a chance to vet their candidates. In our case, the various parties have already chosen their bets, and we are now in the process of choosing the next president.

    No help to voters
    The debates should help the voters choose. But if they are empty and vacuous, they could offer no help; the voters will have to turn to the inane TV commercials and media advertorials which hype all the candidates’ nonexistent virtues and airbrush their most obvious blemishes and defects. People will end up voting for candidates they do not know, based purely on their media image. Another Aquino-type incompetent, corrupt and unspeakably bad government cannot be avoided.

    This has been our recurring experience. In the space of just 18 years, we managed to inflict upon ourselves our first dysfunctional mother-and-son-presidencies–those of the two Aquinos. The nation has suffered much from these twin calamities, while being told how lucky and blessed it has been to have had these two “graces.” This should not happen again.

    What the Church wants
    It may be for this reason that the Church has seen it fit to ask the Catholic faithful, who constitute the nation’s overwhelming majority, to be particularly discerning in their choice of their candidates. Every voter is supposed to do so without any prompting from any priest or pastor, but given the apparent lack of candidates with distinct moral or intellectual excellence, the Church obviously does not want to take anything for granted. This is how important this matter is.

    But it seems to me a mistake to make this, the voters’ choice of candidates–however important it may be — our primary and most pressing concern. While it is necessary to make sure that the faithful choose the next President with their eyes open, the Church cannot assume and must not assume that the people’s votes will be read and recorded correctly by the machine or those in control of the machine, if nothing is done to make sure that it happens. The most palpable signs suggest the exact opposite.

    Gordon’s petition
    For the whole length of last year, concerned citizens have been urging the Comelec to restore the security and safety features and accuracy mechanisms it had illegally removed from the voting machine in the 2010 and 2013 elections. The tumult of voices demanding such a corrective step has reached a crescendo with the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines weighing in. But to no avail. Three days ago, former Senator Richard Gordon, the principal author and sponsor of the Automated Election Law and one of the first victims of automated cheating in the 2010 and 2013 elections, filed a petition before the Supreme Court to compel the Comelec to restore the missing features, as required by law.

    The entire Church
    Independent of what is now before the High Court, the entire Church–clergy, religious and laity — must now raise her voice on this particular issue. Not just the president of the CBCP, but the entire CBCP and everybody else; and not just they but the entire religious sector–all the other faiths that believe in one nation under God. They all must all speak out. For this is not a simple electoral issue; it is a monumental moral issue, upon which depends the political legitimacy of government. There is no breach of the constitutional separation of Church and state.

    And the military too
    Together with the religious sector, the military establishment, as the constitutional protector of the people and the State, should join in this effort. Instead of allowing themselves to be used by unscrupulous politicians for their usual “special operations,” the officers and men of the Armed Forces (and the Police) should once and for all commit themselves totally and unconditionally to safeguarding the absolute integrity of our elections.

    Under Article XVI, Section 5 (3)…”The armed forces shall be insulated from partisan politics. No member of the military shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote.” This prescription of neutrality does not prevent, and should not prevent the officers and members of the AFP from acting decisively to protect the integrity and sanctity of the electoral process, whenever it is in peril as it is today.

    Cheating expected, says survey
    Most analysts fear the May election will be a farce, the cheating wholesale and conclusive. This will be accomplished through the voting machine, and will entail no bloodshed or physical violence. “Peaceful and orderly cheating,” as one late bishop friend of mine used to say. It will be carried out at the national level, without individual vote-buying, intimidation and other practices that usually attend voting at the local level.

    This fear is shared by ordinary citizens. The latest reported survey, for those who believe in surveys, shows that four out of ten who were surveyed believe there will be massive cheating in the polls. But by “cheating” they mean candidates cheating other candidates, not operatives of the Comelec and its foreign partner Smartmatic doing all the cheating to dictate the results of the national contest, and who will own the next government. Individual cheating by candidates has been part of the evil of our electoral system from the very beginning, but wholesale cheating by those who control the process has reduced all this to child’s play.

    Since 2010, it has created so many de facto officials in the highest offices of government.

    But nobody cares
    Lamentably, the most seriously concerned individuals and groups about this are not even running for any office, or identified with those who are. Ironically, the major political players seem entirely apathetic: Many if not most of them seem more interested in trying to buy into the cheating operation so they could use it for their own benefit, instead of making sure that no voter or candidate is cheated.

    What to do then?
    The Church must continue to pray, but she must pray not only for deeper discernment among the voters and greater dedication and honesty among the candidates, but above all for the basic integrity of the electoral process–that those in control would abandon any and all plans to subvert and falsify the process for their own ends. The Church must also ask the faithful to be ready to fight electoral evil not just by praying and fasting and other good works, but also with concrete moral and political action, as conscience would allow or dictate.

    Church workers, in cooperation with other sectors not excluding the military, should now organize themselves and undertake a full threat analysis of the cheating that could take place. One US-based big data analyst suggests that this should include network transmission algorithms, counting software, audit process, encryption and decryption methods. Everything should be closely monitored–unexplained delays in the voting, counting and transmission of votes, malfunctioning of computers or voting units, clear and blatant inconsistencies with Church-run exit polls, etc. And then thresholds should be established like a line in the sand, so that when the line is crossed, the people on the ground would be able to respond.

    The point that must be clear to all is this: We, the People, cannot forever allow ourselves to be left at the mercy of the election thieves. Those who have found someone to vote for in this election should not only vote but above all make sure that their votes are correctly read, recorded and counted. But if and when massive cheating occurs, they should be ready to do something they probably have not done before. Stand with the people, make the criminals accountable, and transform the rotten election into a genuine people’s revolution.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    8 Comments

    1. Revolution isa remote possibility!
      The people of the Philippines have only one enemy in BSAquinoIII.Why create an upheaval that will cause more sufferings and useless loss of lives and property?All we need todo is to shoot him between the eyes and blow his brains out!

    2. Comelec said that VVPAT is time consuming and is vulnerable to vote-buying.

      Remedy. VVPAT time will replace the manual canvassing/counting/tallying time consumed by the BEI . 3-5 hours? Manual counting took longer in the previous elections. Printing of votes cast is collected by the BEI’s or volunteers at the precinct.

    3. We need a catalyst and leaders to get the people to show a very strong solidarity. Who can they or they be? Why can’t there be an alliance of Student Activists, Journalists, Media, and the Church? God and country is crying out for justice and action!

      Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
      those who frame injustice by laws and statutes? (Psalm 94:20)

      You have plowed iniquity;you have reaped injustice;you have eaten the fruit of lies.(Hosea 10:13)

    4. It must be Filipino culture or perhaps simply out of ignorance that the candidates did not try to look their best in this most important once in a lifetime chance to showcase who and what they really are as candidates for president. In a televised event that was witnessed by millions across the country and other parts of the world where Filipinos with cable TV’s are, only one stood out and the other four were out right disappointments.

      Mar Roxas without a doubt was the winner in every aspect of that debate. From his opening remarks to his closing remarks, Roxas showed confidence, great body language, polished looks, outstanding responses with substance and specifics particularly in his role as DILG secretary. He showed absolute confidence in that stage whereas Duterte, who had his barong sleeves rolled and his arms crossed on his chest and reaching out for his drink on two occasions indicated that he was not comfortable in that particular setting. He was entertaining but totally lacking in knowledge and details. Grace Poe, I thought had good clear vocals but showed uneasiness at the opening of the debate and kept looking at Roxas, she kept reaching out for her drink and dropped her pen but she showed some improvement in the latter part of the debate. Santiago is what you call a “career legislator” who speaks and responds to questions in general terms. She too did not show good body language on that stage. The biggest disappointment was Binay. He walked away from his podium four times, he looked at the moderators instead of the audience when he spoke, he kept reaching out for his drink and kept flipping his notes in front of him, Binay was a total disaster. He needs some serious advice.

    5. Re-count the ballots if Mar is surely the winner, no one believes that kind of result….mano mano ang bilangan if necessary, why not….we should know the integrity of those ballots. In that case, if they cheat, what’s the use of ELECTION to pursue! Declare nyo na lang kung sino panalo the pathetic ABnoy NOY PANOT!

    6. The entire failure of the “debate” can be rooted from the bad design and format used by whoever organized that show.

      I thought they already have enough experience in organizing debates, but it just looked like a noontime Q&A game show.

      The organizers were aiming for something and with almost 40% of time consumed by commercials, it is only the profit that mattered to the host network.

    7. In the UK, a pencil on a string and a paper ballot paper still serve us well. Why not here? Papers are retained to deal with challenges, and results are mostly declared within 12 hours.

    8. But what we can do, nothing and nothing we know of this and yet we allow our selves to be fooled by the Aquinos and their dollar dollar billionaires Olgiarchs.

      Now can we do again another EDSA I doubt it will happen again even if the military are behind but it will never gain support without the Oligarchs. In 1986 EDSA that highwat was full of people and Crame and Aguinaldo were full of supporters, WHY, people can not be hungry Oligarchs flooded the said places with packed foods and bottled waters. With that not one of the supporters left EDSA because they are not hungry.

      Can we repeat that again I doubt it