By BENJIE OLIVEROS
On Monday May 13, 2013, the country would have its first elections under the Aquino administration, which was propelled to power on the promise of change. This will be the first elections under the so-called “tuwid na daan” (righteous path) regime of President Benigno Aquino III. The question is: do you notice any difference from previous elections?
We still have the same rule of guns, goons and gold in provincial elections. Reports about killings and attacks on candidates are still common fare for national dailies; vote buying is still common with some offering as much as P5,000 for as long as voters would raise their ballots after voting, for the candidates’ ward leaders to see. Although some have become more creative by having nightly ‘meetings,’ or by raffling out cell phones, tablets or even paying big tips to taxi drivers.
For national candidates, those with the money to pay for TV and radio plugs still dominate the airwaves despite the Comelec ruling limiting airtime of candidates. Another Comelec ruling designating common poster areas and banning posting in most public places even worked to the disadvantage of candidates and political parties who do not have money to pay for a lot of airtime.
We still have the same political dynasties lording it over the elections. In fact, they seem to have become more blatant. President Benigno Aquino III has a cousin Bam and an aunt Margarita Cojuangco running for senator. The ruling coalition also has the son of Sen. Edgardo Angara also running for a seat in Senate. The other major political party UNA, which could not be really called as an opposition party, has three candidates for Senator who are the scions of the three leaders of the party: Jackie Enrile, JV Ejercito, and Nancy Binay. Worse, the infamous Ampatuan clan, whose patriarch and prominent members are under trial for the worst massacre of journalists in history – the Maguindanao massacre – have members running in the slates of both major parties.
When questioned about its support to candidates from the Ampatuan clan, President Aquino reasoned that those running under the ruling coalition are the “good Ampatuans.” Well, the evils of warlordism and corruption do not emanate only from inherently “bad” people, it comes from uncontested or monopoly of power and its logical consequence: impunity. And this has corrupted even the so-called “good” people.
The Comelec, which had three years to prepare after the 2010 elections and with a chairman Sixto Brillantes taking the helm since January 2011, still appear unprepared. Reports reveal a lot of glitches and errors during the final testing and sealing of PCOS machines last May 6, a mere week before the elections. Independent election watchdogs such as Kontra Daya and AES watch lament the fact that the same problems, which happened during the 2010 elections, have not been resolved and have resurfaced.
The elusive source code, which contains the human-readable commands executed by machines, was purportedly released today, a mere four days before the elections. After dismissing demands for the release of the source code and for its review, even calling those asking for it as saboteurs, Comelec Chairman Sixt Brillantes suddenly announced that the source code has been released and reviewed by an independent party. Brillantes was even quoted as saying that the source code was not really necessary. It was released just to show that the elections would be credible. How else could we know that the PCOS machines were not tampered with or programmed to favor candidates and political parties if the source code was not reviewed? Is the credibility of an election just an afterthought for our dear Comelec?
Acting as if on cue, the Social Weather Stations came out with its survey naming nine candidates as ‘safe’ or sure to win. The Inquirer.net, citing the same survey, issued a report with the title “6 senatorial candidates slugging it out for last 3 slots.’ it’s as if the election has started and all the other senatorial candidates would have no chance of wining one of the 12 Senate seats being contested. Why can’t the SWS and the Inquirer report the results of the survey as it is? Why can’t it just say that the results of the survey reveal the following candidates leading? Is the announcement of the results of the SWS survey, which is normally commissioned, necessary in the first place?
Does this not constitute trending? Was it not intended to influence voters to think that they should just vote for those who have “chances of winning” based on the SWS survey? Is this not intended to condition the mind of the public that these candidates will be the winners?
The Aquino administration has been boasting that its ‘good governance’ has been bearing fruit with the investment grade ratings the country got from Fitch and Standard and Poor. Well, if it could not institute reforms in the electoral system, how could it claim to be practicing good governance? After all, the evil called corruption, which the Aquino administration has vowed to stamp out, begins with the elections.