First draft: On E-Day, my wife and I, joined by our two sons, went out to vote early to avoid the rush of voters.
The event transpired without a hitch. Except for a slight delay in finding my favorite party-list group, I accomplished my ballot quite quickly.
My choices followed what I announced in my column last Thursday, May 5 (“Names to include and avoid in my ballot,” Manila Times, May 5).
Mainly because of some letters and comments I received in reaction to the column, I made a few changes in my ballot—notably, adding Susan Ople and Greco Belgica among my senatorial choices.
I must also confess to changing my mind about voting for Neri Colmenares for senator. My son told me that Colmenares was not only one of the 188 congressmen who voted to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona; he was also one of the House prosecutors, and he jumped at every opportunity to lambaste Corona in interviews by the media covering the trial.
The circumstantial evidence points to Colmenares being one of those who got a reward from President Aquino for impeaching Corona.
When my ballot was inserted in the vote counting machine (VCM), I asked the Comelec officer about my voters’ receipt. He told me to just wait, it will come out shortly. And sure enough, it came out in short order, like a receipt at the neighborhood grocery store.
I checked to see whether the receipt recorded my actual choices. It did.
This humdrum proceeding eased my nagging fears of wholesale electronic cheating in the election. If the voting could take place without incident in our neighborhood precinct, maybe, just maybe, it was orderly and clean elsewhere in the country.
Let us see what will happen later today when the polls close, and the canvassing starts.
I was musing contentedly about the election when my eldest son burst on my reverie, saying that on social media, people were already announcing that Duterte was ahead by 6 million votes. I asked him in disbelief, “How can that happen when the polls have not yet closed?”
This presaged for me the disorders and conflicts that are about to burst upon us.
Nothing is ever easy in this country.
Between Tweedledum and Tweedledee
On Saturday, the seventh of May, the final day of the campaign, after all the trouble and expense they took to stage their final campaign rally or miting de avance, none of the five presidential candidates had the energy or imagination to find the words to move a nation of 100 million. They were all overwhelmed by the moment.
With the grail in sight, no one was capable of attaining a level of eloquence to sway the people to vote or march for them. No one could paint before the nation and the world what kind of country we would become under their leadership.
The final speech of each and all was banal and insignificant. This election, which I described earlier as an “election of false choices,” hardened into a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
At his final campaign rally in Makati City, where he served as mayor for 21years, Vice-President Jejomar Binay defied the late pre- election surveys, by confidently predicting: “On Election Day, we will be victorious. I will be the next President of the country. I believe I will win by at least 3 to 5 million votes.”
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago opted not to hold her own miting de avance, by gracing instead a volunteers-led “street party” in front of her campaign headquarters in Quezon City.
She called on the 20-million youth voters to unite under her slogan of “shared destiny.”
She asked her supporters to be vigilant and to protect her votes and those of her running mate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., against any possible cheating.
Candidate Rodrigo Duterte held his final rally at the Quirino Grandstand, in Rizal Park, where a mammoth crowd of his supporters, estimated at close to half a million people, gathered to cheer him on to victory.
You would think that with a sea of red before him, Duterte would rush like a bull into the fight. But surprisingly he did not turn to his stock vocabulary of profanities, curses and imprecations.
He declared instead that he would do in the presidency the same thing he did in Davao City. He would do anything even if it means losing his position.
He said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the armed forces to hunt down criminals and dealers and users of illegal drugs.
Fate up to God and the people
As she did at the start of her campaign, Grace Poe held her miting de avance at Plaza Miranda, in Quiapo, Manila.
She intoned: “My countrymen, I offered my candidacy to our Lord and to all of you. Who would have thought that a foundling will now be here speaking before you? So this day is a day of thanks.”
She would leave her electoral fate to God and the people.
Finally, there was Liberal Party presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who chose to hold his miting de avance at the Quezon Memorial Circle, which President Aquino himself attended in an earnest of support.
Roxas addressed himself to the future, hoping to touch a chord. “We’re here fighting for our future, fighting for the continuation of our way of life. Our rivals want us to forget that we’ve gone a long way. No matter what they say, critics cannot deny that the Philippines is now Asia’s bright star.”
“This is not about Mar Roxas or Leni Robredo, this is about the dreams of 100 million Filipinos who want to live in dignity, full of hope and with a secure future. That’s the reason why we’re here.”
Between a dream and a nightmare
I recall a time in my boyhood when we would literally walk miles to hear a national candidate speak at a campaign rally. No one thought to pay us anything to join the crowd. We went because we were interested in listening to what the candidate had to say. We went partly for the promise that they would say something that would be worth committing to memory.
Politicians today are not cast in the same mold. They are smaller in dimension in every way. They do not write their own speeches. If they were asked to write a 100-word essay to sum up the essence of their campaign, they probably won’t be able to do it, without sinking into a flood of clichés.
Politics is an honorable trade, but no one believes that anymore, least of all the politicians.
As an observer of so many elections for some four decades now, I have come to distrust rhetoric that sees a political campaign as selling a dream to the people.
I like what the novelist Mark Helperin wrote for Bob Dole, when he ran for the US presidency. Dole said: “Facts are better than dreams.”
In this election, which some ecclesiastical members of the National Transformation
Council (NTC) have described as the worst they’ve seen in their lives, and the possible work of the devil, I am convinced that we Filipinos will wake up from our dream of democracy as a cure-all for our cares and sorrows.
We stand now between a dream of a better future and a possible nightmare.
In the next few days, we will know what kind of future awaits us.