By BENJIE OLIVEROS
MANILA — Despite the long queues and the glitches of some PCOS machines, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is all too happy that the first automated elections pushed through without the failure of elections, the no proclamation, or massive disenfranchisement scenarios being predicted by election watchdogs and government critics. By 10 p.m. of May 10, Comelec Chairman Jose Melo could barely conceal the smile on his face when he was reading out the unofficial tabulated election results, a mere three hours after voting precincts have been declared officially closed. The day after, on May 11, the Comelec began declaring the winners of local elections and presidential candidates have been conceding defeat to Noynoy Aquino. By May 12, the Comelec announced that less than four percent of election results have yet to be transmitted.
This is definitely faster than previous elections. The transmission of results in a precinct takes a mere one to three minutes each for the three recipients. Not only are the tabulation and transmission of results fast, it is also smoother. Gone are the days when poll watchers used to crowd teachers who were reading the votes one ballot at a time and tallying the results on the board. In fact, the task of poll watchers has become boring. Also, the tension in precincts arising from strong and even violent reactions of losing candidates after all votes have been tallied has become a thing of the past.
However, the elections are far from being flawless, even if we do not consider the long queues. First, cheating through the infamous dagdag-bawas or vote padding-vote shaving could still happen during canvassing at the municipal, provincial, and national levels, especially if the difference in votes between two or more contending candidates is not that big. This is why vice presidential candidate Jejomar Binay is warning about the probability of him being cheated during canvassing. Cheats do not care if there are discrepancies between the tally of votes in all the precincts and the results of the canvassing at the municipal level; or if there are discrepancies between the certificates of canvass at the municipal level and that of the provincial level up to the national level. Former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was caught on tape assuring Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that everything could be fixed during the canvassing of votes. Also, in 2007, the number of party-list votes in Maguindanao and the rest of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao exceeded the number of registered voters.
Second, while election automation was able to fix what is happening inside the precincts, it was not able to solve the politics of guns, goons, and gold outside of it. Clashes between the armed groups of rival politicians still occurred. Likewise, cases of harassments and intimidation committed by soldiers against members and supporters of progressive candidates and party-list groups have been recorded. Voters, especially in provinces where the power of coercion and intimidation of political warlords and the military still holds sway, continue to live in fear and their right to vote effectively suppressed. Vote-buying also still reared its ugly head during the May 10 elections.
Added to this, Malacañang-sponsored party-list groups were still able to get Comelec accreditation and have crowded the party-list elections.
More important is the fact that automation did not and could not alter the elite-dominated, money-operated character of Philippine politics. One has to spend billions of pesos to have a fighting chance in the race for the presidency. It would take hundreds of millions to conduct a formidable campaign for senator. And no less than tens of millions are spent to win in local elections. Thus, except for a very few exceptions, only scions of political cum landlord clans could run and win in local elections. Only members or representatives of big landlords and big business could run and win in the race for senator, vice president, and president. In the case of senators, there are a few exceptions such as actors or actresses, who, nevertheless, must have the resources or the support of people with the resources to run a decent campaign. As for progressive candidates, they must have the backing of major political parties, which have the resources.
Thus, whoever wins could not stamp out corruption, as landlords and big business would have to recoup their expenses. He or she also could not substantially alter the direction and orientation of the country’s economy. An article in the May 7-8, 2010 issue of Business World clearly shows that nothing would change in the direction and orientation of the economy, even if it is being battered by a crisis. The title of the article is Poll Success more urgent as Aquino, Villar stances don’t differ much. Here are a few quotations from the article:
“In its ‘Asia Economics Flash’ research published on April 28, Goldman Sachs said ‘we believe it is more important for the market to focus on the process and timeliness of the transition.’”
“It pointed out that between Benigno C. Aquino III and Manuel B. Villar, ‘we do not see any significant divergence on major market issues, including their positions on the state of the economy, fiscal policy, and budget consolidation.’”
To translate in simple terms, what Goldman Sachs is saying is that no substantial changes are expected in the orientation and direction of the economy and its concomitant policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization – which has sparked the crisis and caused untold sufferings on the Filipino people – whoever wins in the elections, whether it would be Aquino or Villar, or even Estrada for that matter. Thus, there would be no significant deviation from the economic policies that were pursued by the outgoing Arroyo administration. The only thing that needs to be ensured is a peaceful transition of power.
Goldman Sachs is one of the giant financial investment banks that has triggered the financial and economic crisis that imploded in 2007. Its former employees include Henry Paulson, its former CEO and the Treasury secretary under Pres. George W. Bush, and Robert Rubin, the Treasury secretary under Pres. Bill Clinton. The current US Treasury secretary Timothy Franz Geithner was an assistant of Paulson.
Did we have clean and honest elections? Perhaps, only at the precinct level.
Did we have democratic elections? If by democratic we mean that the Filipino people would be able to choose their true representatives who would genuinely work for their interests, definitely not. (Bulatlat.com)