As the polls open today, the proposed electoral cure seems to be worse than the disease. The elections are illegal and false, said the National Transformation Council (NTC) last Saturday; “the most frightening thing I have ever seen in my life,” said NTC supporter Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz, archbishop emeritus of Lingayen-Dagupan, and former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. This is clearly the work of the devil, said NTC member Archbishop Fernando Capalla, archbishop emeritus of Davao and also former CBCP president.
Not who but what?
The question is not, “who will be elected President?” Rather, “will anyone be elected President?” The electoral process has been reduced to a very cruel joke, a total sham. We are made to believe that we are being given the chance to choose a new president; this is an illusion. Aquino wants to choose our new leader for us. He does not want to be punished for his unpunished crimes by the next administration.
Thus, he has warned that he would lead a massive protest action should the voters choose the vice presidential frontrunner Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos, Jr. This has been followed by reports of massive vote-buying in favor of the Liberal Party’s Leni Robredo, Aquino’s preferred vice presidential candidate.
He cannot and will not leave this choice to us. He wants to choose for us. The whole process has to be manipulated to produce the result he desires. Cheating has to be the norm. So while some of us are getting exercised over some of our friends’ outrageous choices, the fact is that what Malacañang, the Commission on Elections, Smartmatic and others call an election does not at all deserve the name nor our involvement in it.
People who see this very clearly and are pissed off by it have responded very clearly by expressing the most unlikely support for Rodrigo Duterte, the most foul-mouthed of the candidates, as a way of flashing the middle finger to Aquino. You have conned us and consistently shamed us for the last six years, they seem to be saying; you won’t do it to us anymore this time. Good riddance.
No mere boycott
Having acquired its own momentum, the process can no longer be stopped, except by force majeure (French for ‘superior force’) or casus fortuitus (Latin for ‘chance occurrence or unavoidable accident’). But we don’t have to be part of it. We should stay away from it, without confusing our action for the usual “boycott.” It is not one and the same thing.
When Cory Aquino lost the snap presidential election against President Marcos in 1986, her political advisors asked her to call for “civil disobedience.” But she called for a “boycott” of the “products of the crony corporations (San Miguel Corp., in particular)” instead. I don’t mean anything like that.
An election boycott means abstaining from the process without saying anything about its legality or legitimacy. It’s saying, “you can have your elections, but I’ll have nothing to do with them.” This is not what the NTC is saying. What the NTC is saying is that the people must reject the exercise because it is illegal and a farce. Even though there is no way of stopping it, and many people eagerly want to participate in it, it should have no binding moral or legal effect upon the nation as such. It is illegal and illegitimate, full stop.
First of all, evidence of widespread fraud has already begun to surface.
Specimens of pre-shaded official ballots favoring Aquino’s “other presidential candidate” have been retrieved from the National Printing Office, according to reports, after the bulk of such ballots had left the printing floor and been prepositioned nationwide. Nine SD cards reconfiguration centers have been set up by yet unidentified parties, the reports further said, without any authorization from the Comelec and without the knowledge of the political parties and the public.
Since the March 27 hacking of the Comelec website, there has been no official explanation of why the voters’ list attacked by the hackers contained 70 million names when the official total claimed by the Comelec is only 54.3 million votes. There has been no official effort to assure the public either that the voting system is adequately protected from any further hacking before, during or after the voting.
The Comelec has failed to meet the minimum security requirement of Republic Act 9369, otherwise known as the Automated Election System (AES) Law, which various groups had been demanding long before the campaign period began. Of the four major security features which were illegally removed in the 2010 and 2013 elections, only two—the ballot verification feature and the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) or voter’s receipt—have been restored, to a minimum degree.
The voter’s receipt has been purposely stripped of the essential security features such as date and time stamp, precinct number ID and hash code to significantly reduce its evidentiary value and provide a convenient excuse in case of anomalies involving the use of such receipt.
The source code review has been partially granted, but Smartmatic withheld the review of the all-important ballot security code. Similarly, the digital signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors have been replaced with machine signatures, without any third-party authentication. Meanwhile, Smartmatic has full control and access to the individual personal identification numbers of all those to be assigned to the BEIs.
The Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), created under Republic Act 9369 otherwise known as the Automated Election System (AES) Law, has failed to comply with its specific mandate to certify, through an established international certification entity recommended by the Advisory Council, NOT LATER THAN THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE DAY OF THE ELECTION, that the AES, including its hardware and software components is OPERATING PROPERLY, SECURELY and ACCURATELY in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
This certification should have been issued in early February to comply with the inflexible deadline, says the NTC. However, it was only a week ago that some kind of certification was issued by the TEC. This was long past the legal deadline; therefore, the certification was null and void ab initio. In the case of the Overseas Absentee Voting, held long before the TEC’s belated issuance of the certificate, there can be no argument about its lack of validity. A group of concerned citizens has formally petitioned the Comelec to nullify the results of the Overseas Absentee Voting.
Without a valid certification of seaworthiness, a passenger ship may not sail, says the NTC statement. Without a valid certification of airworthiness, a passenger aircraft may not fly. Without a valid TEC certification, as required by law, the May 9 elections cannot simply push through.
But the elections will push through. If no disturbance mars the voting, trouble could follow as soon as results are announced. Because all the parties have the capability to intervene in the counting, transmission and tabulation of the votes, everyone expects to win the post-election even if they lose the election. The losers are not likely to accept whoever is announced as the “president-elect.”
There was never a marked public and official effort to make the process clean, honest, transparent and credible. Despite the determined effort of groups like AES Watch, Tanggulang Demokrasya (Tandem), CENPEG (Center for People Empowerment in Governance), Philippine Computer Society, NTC, and others to make Comelec fully accountable by getting rid of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine and its supplier Smarmatic, the PCOS was simply renamed “Vote Counting Machine,” but the Venezuelan company became even more deeply entrenched, after its international chairman, Lord George Mark Malloch Brown, who used to work for Cory Aquino, had a private meeting with Pony in Malacañang.
At the same time the paid propaganda surveys became the principal vehicle and venue for the presidential campaign, as every alleged survey manufactured rather than measured public opinion, and was disseminated by the complicit media like gospel truth, even without disclosing who had paid for the alleged survey and other details critical to the credibility of the same.
What the unverified and unverifiable surveys have proclaimed, the rigged VCM will ultimately confirm at the end of the voting. Thus someone has called the surveys and the VCM as the “riding-in-tandem assassins of Philippine elections.”
Everything for sale
Automated cheating has become such an accepted thing in our elections that instead of spending on the actual campaign, candidates appropriate the bigger part of their budget on the fraudulent propaganda surveys and the “hocus PCOS” (now VCM). The NTC’s Glenn Chong, who has been talking about this all over the country, even quotes a price list.
Apparently all elective offices are now for sale, and while Malacañang and its minions at the Comelec appear to be in charge of the presidency and vice presidency, a criminal syndicate is in charge of marketing the other positions, from senator all the way down.
The starting retail bid, according to our report, is P100 million for senator; P50 million for governor, P30 million for district congressman and party-list congressman; P100 million for city mayor. For wholesale arrangements, one congressman, one mayor, one vice mayor and 10 councilors will cost P200 million. There’s even a layaway plan for councilors, says this report—P100,000 a months for 20 months.
All this has raised the cost of running for public office to such an extent that only the moneyed can now consider entering politics, and corruption becomes almost mandatory once they are elected. One explanation for the fact that so many incumbent governors and congressmen are running unopposed in this election, according to our report, is that there are not enough individuals with enough money to pay the syndicate for the cost of elective office.
This is how degraded our electoral system (qua system) has become. How then can anyone defend it as a moral and legal proposition?
This is aggravated by the fact that even at the highest level, almost every candidate is self-nominated; there is no official vetting, or pre-qualifying system. Most of the senator-judges who received bribes of P50 million or more—Frank Drilon got P100 million, Francis Escudero got P92 million—to convict and remove the late Chief Justice Renato Corona at his 2012 Senate impeachment trial are running again, and even rating in the propaganda surveys, without any apology for having been part of that scandal. A former senator who impregnated one or two of his secretaries when he was last in office, is running again and also rating in the fraudulent surveys, without any apology for his notorious indiscretions.
At the level of the presidency, the same situation prevails. Had there been a pre-qualifying process, akin to the US primaries preceding the official party nominations, we would not be having the problems we are having right now. Vice President Jejomar Binay’s party would have been able to dispose of all the allegations against him before the filing of his certificate of candidacy; Grace Poe Llamanzares’s party would have been able to decide whether she should run at all with all the questions about her natural-born status and residency, and her having to sleep with a natural-born American husband, who used to work for a contractor of the US spy agencies; the Liberal Party would have been able to find out whether or not Mar Roxas is the most pleasant overgrown rich kid it could offer to follow the path of his late grandfather; and Mayor Duterte’s party would have been able to find out whether there is no more vulgar and offensive mouth it could offer as presidential candidate from Mindanao.
While many of us see the nation’s fight as a fight between good and evil, our presidential candidates have succeeded in turning it into a fight between one form of evil and another, among men and women whose only obvious purpose is to gain unaccountable power. There is very little to choose from and the system is completely broken—what then is our duty to God and country at this time, asks a young friend? Shall we simply allow ourselves to be coopted again, or shall we finally say we deserve and demand something much better?