Progressive party list groups are incredulous that they got too few votes even in areas where they have many chapter members.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — In 2004 elections, the last elections that used manual counting in the Philippines, Migrante Partylist, a rookie in partylist elections at the time, garnered 110,000 votes. “We haven’t campaigned much all over the country and abroad at the time,” Garry Martinez, Migrante Partylist second nominee, told Bulatlat.com. This time, Migrante is a popular veteran of various OFW struggles and campaigns. It has figured in many high-profile issues of OFWs in Asia and the Middle East. It has considerably more chapters here and abroad. Their members have also actively gone out to campaign sorties in this year’s midterm elections.
As such, the group has many reasons to project that this election they would get much more votes than what they got in 2004. In Hong Kong alone, Migrante Partylist expectedly got the 10,000 votes of its members. Multiply those votes to three at least for every member’s relative or friends back home, Migrante projected at least 30,000 votes in the Philippines based on their Hong Kong chapter alone, said Garry Martinez. But incredibly, Martinez said, Migrante took in only a little more than 29,000 votes in all before Comelec suspended canvassing of partylist votes.
Migrante joined the protest of various groups under the Koalisyon ng Progresibong Manggagawa at Mamamayan (KPMM) in Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang May 22. He noted that almost all progressive partylist groups got lower votes this election. This trend is incredible, the groups noted.
More skewed to trapo with poll automation
“Whatever democratic aspect there is in an election has been robbed from us by Comelec and Aquino,” said Joms Salvador, deputy secretary-general of Gabriela in a speech at Mendiola.
Gabriela Women’s Partylist ranked in the top 10 of partylist groups in votes this midterm elections, but Joms Salvador told Bulatlat.com, they have reasons to believe their votes are not what it should have been. “We have garnered more than a million votes before, it is incredible that it would go down to just hundreds of thousands when more women are active today in upholding their rights and joining Gabriela campaigns,” she said.
Of all progressive partylist groups, which are targets of military vilification, Gabriela has arguably the most following and friends from all walks of life. It has members and supporters coming from the slums to middle class and exclusive subdivisions, from working class and even from art and entertainment circles. Like Migrante, Gabriela has achieved the status of “Isumbong Mo sa Gabriela” among the Filipino masses, whenever a case of harassment against women was reported.
Piston Partylist meanwhile, a rookie partylist group this elections, is an arch enemy of oil companies and various money-making schemes of government transportation offices. The group has been singled out during campaign season by the Comelec for disqualification, citing what Piston called as very minor acts of postering violations.
Piston members also joined the protest this morning at Mendiola to ask the Comelec to stop counting the votes of dubious partylist groups which the Comelec had previously already disqualified.
Before the Comelec suspended the canvassing of partylist votes, a move which Piston had criticized last week as suspicious, Piston has garnered 173,000-plus votes, the highest votes among transport-related partylist groups. But George San Mateo said their votes are still small compared to those garnered by partylist groups of traditional political dynasties. San Mateo said they reckon they are getting smaller votes than they had conservatively expected, even factoring in the vilification and Comelec’s attempts to disqualify and discredit them.
In Sorsogon where Piston affiliate drivers’ organizations are active and can paralyze transportation during a strike, they got only 800 votes in the canvassed results as of four days ago, prior to Comelec’s suspension of canvassing for party list votes. This is incredible, San Mateo told Bulatlat.com. The group reported that their chapter members in the area had voted for Piston.
In Metro Manila, San Mateo noted that Piston Partylist got only 36,000 votes until unofficial counts were stopped, lower than the number of their chapter members. This is impossible, San Mateo repeated. He added that they have not yet even factored in the members of drivers’ families, who, he said, are also actively supporting them.
Even as Piston is still involved in the unfinished canvassing, San Mateo said, they are preparing to continue their campaign against oil price hikes and oil overpricing. Oil prices have been hiked twice since election day. Prices were raised by P0.60 per liter of diesel, P0.90 per liter of gasoline last week; yesterday it again rose P0.25 per liter of diesel and P0.45 per liter of gasoline – meaning there had been two price hikes in less than two weeks.
KPMM appealed to the public to also protest against poll fraud. Martinez said their rally at Mendiola is also geared to challenge Comelec to do a full manual counting of votes. He noted that not only progressive groups are protesting but also many other groups and even the church. Many, he said, have described this election as “the most blatantly fraudulent.”
Aquino the beneficiary of ‘election fraud’
“Philippine elections has always been very dirty, but with the advent of poll automation, elections became even more out of reach of ordinary Filipinos, as from precinct to canvassing the Comelec has ensured the elections and counting of votes are un-transparent. We have no way of knowing now if the votes they said are accurate,” said Salvador during their rally at Mendiola.
She said Filipinos have long been used to dirty elections, “but automation made it dirtier, made traditional power of the moneyed more pronounced in AES. Cheating is done faster.”
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. has heckled the protesters of election results as losers, but, according to Salvador, the beneficiaries of election cheating will, of course, never protest against their “victory.”
Comelec’s “cheating” has favored Aquino’s drive to dominate Philippine politics, Salvador of Gabriela said. She now warned the public to brace for Aquino’s next moves, which, she predicted would most likely be an “intensification of exploitative’ repressive policies, from oil price hikes to charter change as dictated by Aquino’s masters.”
If there’s one remaining hindrance to total liberalization in the Philippines and opening it to foreign investors, it’s the remaining nationalist provisions in the Constitution, Salvador said. (Read: Groups say Constitution needs enabling laws, not amendments)
Salvador said that it’s crucial for Aquino to control all branches of government. “That’s why Aquino’s lips are sealed against speaking out over this massive election cheating.” Aquino is after consolidating his power base through this fraudulent midterm elections, said Salvador in Filipino. She warned that Aquino is bent on passing with haste during his remaining three years the laws and policies his “foreign masters” had long wanted him to pass and implement.