With the 2013 elections now officially in the history books, it is time to look to 2016, the next major political battle, and as some say, the real battle for the soul of these benighted islands we call the Philippines.
Shortly before Election Day, UNA put to the front of people’s minds what has been at the back of them. The 2013 elections were just a prelude to the 2016 presidential election.
During their miting de avance last week, Erap, Juan Ponce Enrile, and several of the UNA candidates introduced Jojo Binay as “the next president of the Philippines.” Migz Zubiri volunteered to be his campaign manager for the Visayas and Mindanao.
“Of course we’re looking at 2016,” said Erap in an interview with the Inquirer. Ernesto Maceda and Toby Tiangco agreed. In fact, they said, local officials were already lining up behind Binay in anticipation of his run.
All of which doesn’t just push the question of the 2016 election at the forefront of people’s minds; it also pushes there the question of: What happens after P-Noy goes? The prospects are not just dim, they’re dark. Hell, they’re not just dark, they’re black. As it stands now, the fight in 2016 is just between Binay and Mar Roxas. It’s been that way for the last three years, since Binay stole the vice presidency from Roxas. Binay contends the “stole” is figurative, Roxas never understood that he merely drew strength from P-Noy. Roxas contends the “stole” is literal, even taking legal action against it, but has pretty much dropped it in practice if not theory.
Of course it’s only Binay who has declared in no uncertain terms he will run. Roxas has in fact said the opposite: He has “no plans” to run for president in 2016. But people who have “no plans” to run can always be “persuaded” to run. Easiest thing in the world to manufacture a “public clamor,” however the clamor comes only from family and friends and however it is too feeble to be heard beyond certain corners of a TV station. Franklin Drilon did suggest a few months ago the Liberal Party was gearing up for a Roxas campaign in 2016. That would have been no small thanks to Roxas himself.
We did have someone who swore ardently before the grave of Rizal she would not run for president. That was shortly before she did. And Roxas shares a great deal of her hunger for power—she out of rebellion at enfeeblement, he out of a sense of entitlement; she out of wanting to get back at the world, he out of wanting to wrest things from the world.
It’s enough to have gotten some people wondering if it would not be a good idea if P-Noy ran for a second term, if a plebiscite could not amend the Constitution to allow him to do so, if a real public clamor out of a people’s instinct for self-preservation could not compel him to do so. Much as I myself find the idea tempting, I do not find it a good one. In the first place, I can’t see how P-Noy will do it; he is too much like his mother who was thrice offered the crown and thrice refused it, to paraphrase Julius Caesar. His mother refused; he will, too.
Quite apart from that, the point is to strengthen the institution, not to weaken it. The point is to improve the system, not to impair it. Democracy will not be the better for making exceptions out of expedience, it will be the worse for it. The road to hell has been known to be spiked with good intentions.
But which leaves us with a horizon that, unless drastically changed over the next three years, offers a horrible choice.
On one side, there’s the current head of UNA, Jojo Binay. It’s a testament to the company he keeps—or kept—that Zubiri was just volunteering last weekend to be his campaign manager in 2016 for the Visayas and Mindanao. Of course that’s not likely to happen now—as of Tuesday, Zubiri was two rungs below the Magic 12. He’s “damaged goods” in more ways than one. He’s just lost the elections in addition to being branded forever as a cheat, the second owing to the first. Or to Koko Pimentel’s efforts to drive the point home.
Zubiri might be gone, but not so Erap and Enrile. Erap has just won Manila, and Enrile has a way of surviving in more ways than one—not just politically but physically. Those who imagine he may not be around by 2016, figuratively or literally, forget that it doesn’t pay to trust in things like lupus. Binay keeps having Erap and Enrile and, who knows, Zubiri, for tea, and he will give whole new meanings to “vice” in vice president.
On the other side, there’s the current head of the Liberal Party, Mar Roxas. It’s a testament as well to the nature of the man that he is the head of the Liberal Party even after he lost his bid as vice president. Even after P-Noy won as president. Even after kapinuhan, graciousness, and good manners and right conduct tell you to cede the headship of your party to your boss, the President of the country. Roxas is currently the second most powerful man in the country despite having lost the elections, owning the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Transportation and Communications, and the Palace Communication Group—oh, yes, all of them. My friends correct me there: He’s not the second most powerful man in the country, he’s the first.
If the presidential election were held today, Binay would win hands down. In the election to be held three years from now, Binay would still win hands down. I’ve always said that, like Jose de Venecia, Roxas has only one way to become boss of this country, and that is by turning it from presidential to parliamentary and running as prime minister. But my friends correct me there, too: Not even so. His own party cannot abide him, his need for power is not unlike Gloria’s.
But that’s no cause for celebration. Binay vs. Roxas: That’s Scylla and Charybdis, that’s a rock and a hard place, that’s the devil and the deep blue sea. We’ve got three years to change things, we’ve got three years to look for an alternative. Otherwise, we won’t be going back to the future.
“What do you make of this, Kuya?” my younger brother Ambo, auxiliary bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, asked me last Monday, as he showed me an envelope addressed to him containing the campaign leaflet of a party-list nominee and a crisp P200 bill. “All the other priests at my parish got the same envelope through the mail,” he said. “I think the sender had no idea we are priests.”
The brazenness of the act riled the good bishop. He is the provincial coordinator for Pampanga of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). I told him that if it had been sent by someone running for mayor, it was likely to be a clever form of black propaganda concocted by an opponent. But, who would want to do something like this merely to discredit one party-list nominee? More than 100 party-list organizations are vying for seats in the elections.
I felt certain that the envelope could only have come from the person who was explicitly soliciting votes in exchange for a small amount of cash. The question is: Why would anyone be so stupid as to attempt something so patently illegal? By analyzing the possible answers to this question, we might, I think, begin to understand why no one has been jailed for vote-buying.
My hunch is that this crooked and desperate politician (CDP) was acting on the basis of some educated assumptions about our political culture. First, that the average Filipino voter, having no strong preferences for the party-list slot, would be inclined to vote for CDP’s party-list group for taking the trouble to write and attach a token of his gratitude. Second, that the few who might take offense at being offered a bribe would not be inclined to make a big fuss about it. The worst they could do is simply not vote for CDP’s party-list group. And third, that the rare citizen who might feel so outraged at being bribed as to actually decide to file an official complaint would not get very far anyway. CDP could just deny that the envelopes were sent by him. Indeed, he would say precisely that it is stupid for anyone to do anything clearly illegal and leave traces of the deed.
Deniability—that is the crux of this insidious practice of vote-buying. It is almost next to impossible to produce solid evidence that can stand in court. That is why allegations of rampant vote-buying are typically treated as no more than the expected noise from an ongoing political contest.
On Election Day, I had a chance to listen to the detailed account of a voter from my town who claims that she was given a ballot that bore preshaded ovals for the local positions. According to her, a board of election inspectors (BEI) member whom she personally knew handed her a ballot, saying, “Oh, it’s you. I made a mistake; I’ll just give you this ballot.” Then she pulled out a ballot from under the ballot stack and gave it to her in a folder.
The voter then proceeded to fill up the oval spaces for her senatorial and party-list choices. When she turned to the obverse side of the ballot containing the names of the local candidates, she noticed that the ovals across some names had been shaded. She said she didn’t mind that the choices for governor, vice governor, and congressman had been made for her. At first, she thought it was funny that the ballot seemed to have accurately read her mind—until she got to the position of mayor. This was the principal reason she was casting her vote. She had pledged her vote to the candidate of her choice, and was aghast to find that it was the slot for the rival candidate that had been marked.
What she did next is quite interesting, and worth documenting, because it is a predictable reaction. Instead of protesting then and there, she decided to shade the oval for her own choice of mayor. As she stood up to insert the ballot into the PCOS machine, she whispered her anxiety to the person tasked to assist voters. “I’m just wondering why my ballot had been preshaded.” In an equally low voice, the person said: “That’s what she was telling you about earlier,” pointing to the teacher who had given her the marked ballot. Perplexed, the voter dutifully allowed her ballot to be inserted into the machine, half-expecting it to be rejected. The machine accepted it, and displayed a sign congratulating her.
When she got home, she told her siblings about her unusual experience. The more she thought about it, the more she felt that she had been taken advantage of by the teacher who gave her the marked ballot. She felt confused, stupid, and violated. By chance, one of her older siblings was a PPCRV volunteer, which is how her misgivings eventually ripened into a sworn statement. I have heard reports that the same pattern of vote-buying had taken place in many other parts of the country, but few people have dared to expose and denounce it.
I suspect that the incident is part of a system of political transaction that is astounding in its simplicity. Households in a given barangay are offered money just before the election. Those who take the money are marked; they are the ones who are given preshaded ballots. Being complicit to the act, they are not expected to complain. Our perplexed voter complained because she wasn’t aware that anyone in her household had accepted money. Unfortunately, her complaint will probably not gain traction. She has no concrete proof to offer. It’s her word against that of the BEI member.
I refuse to think that this practice is rampant since it clearly requires the collusion of the public school teachers who constitute the BEIs. Perhaps, more than the vote-buying itself, it is the thought that the teachers of our children could be corrupted that is disheartening.
The counting isn’t over, but this much we know now of the 2013 midterm elections: We didn’t know that much.
The Commission on Elections endured incessant warnings from various civic groups that it was about to stage-manage disastrous, dishonest polls, due mainly to the problematic precinct count optical scan machines it had acquired. Almost up to the eve of the polls, the Comelec was wrangling with watchdog and information-technology groups over the much-delayed release of the source code for the PCOS machines.
True enough, there were many reports of machine breakdowns on Election Day. The poll watchdog Kontra Daya said such cases were “widespread and had a major effect on the conduct of the elections.” But Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, was more sanguine in her assessment, saying that “the 400 issues or machines that suffered some malfunction is not such a bad percentage against 77,889 machines used for the elections.”
By the end of the day, as the numbers began piling up, the general impression seemed to be that, despite the glitches, the elections had run more or less successfully. Charges of cheating were at a minimum compared to previous polls, and the speed with which the figures were being transmitted and tallied were in line with the similarly fast results that characterized the 2010 presidential election, the first time the Philippines had employed automated polls.
So, credit where credit is due. If the results hold up and the numbers are eventually ratified, the Comelec, and the thousands of teachers, volunteers and sundry personnel across the country who worked hard to ensure that the elections came off as fair, honest and credible, deserve appreciation.
Another surprising development: Grace Poe’s leap to No. 1 in the count. The surveys had invariably shown Loren Legarda as the topnotcher down to the last days of the campaign, even with Alan Peter Cayetano reportedly employing black prop to chip away at her lead. But their squabble was for naught. That Poe outran them both and blind-sided all professional prognoses with her stunning performance is indicative of a couple of things.
One, her father’s magic is still alive. The daughter of Fernando Poe Jr. ran on the strength of his fabled name, even daring to make a pun of it in her TV ads. It irritated the hell out of social media denizens, but in the end, it worked. If we are to take Poe’s numbers as indication of the extent of goodwill still commanded by her father’s memory, then her victory is essentially one more proof of the historic fraud said to have been perpetrated against him by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election.
Two, social media, the bastion of the middle and upper classes, had minimal effect on the elections. On Facebook and Twitter, a markedly different landscape reigned from the one that was unveiled last Monday. Poe, for one, was mocked for her homespun TV ads. Nancy Binay was the object of relentless ridicule not only for her lack of qualifications but also for her skin color. But she’s at No. 5 at this writing. Online, the noise was loud for the likes of Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño, and Richard Gordon—all down by the wayside in the latest count.
The fight, it would seem, is not on the Internet, via clever memes and civic-minded shout-outs, but still out there in the hustings, among flesh-and-blood voters, where Binay had applied herself to the exclusion of anything else.
Anyone who’s been hoping that social media and technology will now be a game-changer in Philippine politics will have to wait a bit more, it seems. For all the lamentations online, not only are the usual suspects back, but they’re back with a vengeance: the Marcoses, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, even more celebrities in public office, and, most astoundingly, Joseph Estrada, who was kicked out of Malacañang, who was convicted of plunder—and who has managed a spectacular political resurrection as the newly elected mayor of Manila.
And, despite the automated polls, old-time politics reared its ugly head: 27 killed and 24 wounded in election-related incidents; widespread vote-buying, with boxing champ Manny Pacquiao himself allegedly involved in the mauling of a barangay captain who had objected to it; and the ever-present threat of violence to resolve issues, as in the case of the police standoff with NBI agents at the Cavite home of Sen. Bong Revilla.
One step forward, two steps back. Clearly, we have a long way to go.
The late feisty lawyer Haydee Yorac, when approached by distraught persons complaining about their mayor (newly elected or reelected, I don’t remember), stared down the complainants and, with characteristic brusqueness, said: “Bakit, ibinoto ko ba ang mayor nyo (Why, did I vote for your mayor)?”
Ouch. The subtext of her acerbic quip was: You get what you deserve, now you complain? Oh, but don’t we miss her, this frizzy-haired former chair of the Commission on Elections whose fave invocation was “Fiat justitia ruat caelum (Let justice be done though the heavens fall)”?
Here are my postelection ruminations.
With the midterm elections just over and the results out so fast, thanks to automation, grumbles can now be heard on why certain corrupt and undeserving candidates won, or how a perceived cad of a reelectionist could get a new mandate, or how babes in the woods came out victorious simply because they had money to burn.
Self-styled political analysts suddenly emerge from the woodwork with their good two cents, opinion makers hog the airwaves, cafés are abuzz with morning-after discussions. We all have something to say about the conduct of the elections, how TV campaign ads worked or didn’t work, the so-called Catholic vote (if there was or wasn’t), the mounds of trash from candidates, the wanton disregard for election rules, etc., etc.
But an oft-repeated refrain is: The masa kasi. The poor masses are blamed for not voting right, the poor whose votes were bought by candidates with immense power and wealth, the poor who owe the candidates debts of gratitude (utang na loob), the poor who, because of need, fear or ignorance voted wrong, the poor who voted not with their head but with their outstretched palm, the poor who are ignorant and who can see only as far as their next day’s meals.
Sadly, the teeming poor are always perceived as having voted for the wrong people. But are they entirely to blame for their poverty and ignorance? Are they entirely to blame for voting the way they do?
And can you blame the unscrupulous candidates for exploiting the poor so that they can perpetuate themselves in power and beget more wealth because of their power? Ah, the poor must remain poor so that the powerful can remain in power.
In other words, the vote of the teeming poor cannot lift the teeming poor from their poverty. Unless…
It is generally hoped that the poor, by voting for the right candidates, by not selling their votes to corrupt candidates, will eventually have a better life ahead of them. But how can this happen when the vote-buyers can assure meals for tonight? How can the poor see a little farther when they have Vitamin A deficiency?
I presume here that vote-buyers will never do right by the poor people they have bought, that evil deeds will only beget evil. They cannot cheat now and do right later—that is, say that the end justifies the means. Unless the cheats later get thrown off their horses on the way to Damascus.
And so I do not agree with the advice that the poor should accept bribe money from a candidate but vote independently for the one who they think is the good one (hopefully not the briber). Even the late Jaime Cardinal Sin said something to that effect. I would say yes, but only if your life is under threat.
The act of accepting a bribe perpetuates a wrong and unacceptable practice, not only on the part of the receiver but on the part of the giver as well. A journalist who accepts a bribe and says he or she will donate the money to charity anyway is giving the impression that it is okay to consider journalists as commodities. Who is to know that you gave the grease money to charity? Only God and yourself. That is not enough. You have to proclaim from the rooftops that bribery is wrong.
So can the poor be economically emancipated through the sheer power of their own votes? I have my doubts. As long as there are candidates who will exploit the poor to gain votes and win, their poor constituents will remain poor.
Is this a chicken-or-egg situation? The poor vote for the right leaders and they get economic freedom. Or they get economic freedom first so that they can vote freely for the right leaders? I have a sinking feeling that it is the latter.
So whence comes the poor’s economic emancipation if it will not be through their own votes? Can they ever vote right? Should they always be blamed?
Thank God, bad eggs do not always win. And the teeming poor cannot always be bought wholesale. And there are other sectors in the electorate—upright, unselfish, well-motivated—that can spell the difference and tip the balance toward the side of the least and the last. The positive results may come slow, but hope springs as long as these can be sustained.
I now often hear about voter’s education being included early in the school curriculum, the way financial management or sexual health should be, before it is too late. Some will fall through the cracks; we’ve had leaders with impressive academic backgrounds who became rotten. But it is always good to invest in the young. Some of them will someday pleasantly stun us, all because a good seed had been planted in them.
Last year, when I went to Iloilo for our town fiesta and to accept an award, I noticed that the portraits of President Aquino in the municipal hall were missing and had been replaced with several of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s. And this is the bailiwick of Mr. Aquino’s ever loyal Sen. Franklin Drilon. Eeew.
Let me end by saying that I hope Mr. Aquino finds out that not all local leaders who won under Team PNoy are above reproach—and the sooner he realizes there are undesirables who do not tread the daang matuwid, the better.
The Commission on Elections’ odd decision to leave the candidates and the whole nation hanging in suspense with its sudden adjournment as a canvassing body on the night of Election Day “to take a much-needed rest” was a public relations blunder. It again opened the electoral process, particularly the counting, to doubt and speculation.
Then the double-count glitch in the unofficial tallying added more mass to the cloud of doubt, with Comelec debunkers gleefully muttering “I told you so” at their dinner tables.
But once the glitch was fixed and the counting machines started humming correctly again (or so we were told), the big surprise of the evening greeted us all with a bang. Before anyone could say “Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting,” the name and face of Grace Poe were on everyone’s TV screen, having dislodged the presumptive No. 1, Loren Legarda, from her perch on top of the leader board. Which may or may not have proved that the brouhaha over Ms Legarda’s alleged double filing of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth did have a negative impact on her vote total and ranking. The usual analysts will now have one more puzzle to divine.
On the whole, the results have borne out the surveys, with a few ranking switches in the actual tally. Some of us will applaud the outcome, others will rue them. That’s the nature of electoral contests: Some win, others lose.
Advertising blitzes in the campaign homestretch proved effective. Poe’s repetitive invocation of the name of her father, Fernando Poe Jr., and her mom Susan Roces’ tender presence in the “last two minutes” commercials catapulted her to a stunning top spot. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.’s blitz and last-minute, word-of-mouth pleadings for him couldn’t do the trick for him, though.
As for Jamby Madrigal, I wonder why she didn’t saturate the media as an attempt to catch up with the rest of the pack? Even her promised endorsement surprise from a big personality (Ping Lacson?) didn’t materialize. For Magsaysay and Madrigal (and Risa Hontiveros, a near-winner in 2010), being in the final 12-0 wasn’t meant to be.
But, no doubt, media exposure was vital for some of the candidates (Poe, Alan Peter Cayetano, Koko Pimentel). And, conversely, evasive media maneuvers were what, ironically, helped others (like Nancy Binay) win. Binay avoided all the public debates and simply let her name do the talking. Now she’ll have to make good on her pledge to do the debating in the Senate—but not, as it turned out, with Hontiveros.
Meanwhile, no amount of ad blitzkrieg could save Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. as he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, no doubt due to his controversial past and recent controversies involving his father and namesake, the Senate president. Migz Zubiri, too, paid for his controversial usurpation of Pimentel’s Senate seat for four years. While many Filipino voters are still unsophisticated in their discernment of political nuances, they can sense when people have been treated unfairly and act accordingly.
Again, as in 2010, computerized voting and counting saved the nation the ordeal of an agonizingly slow count. To their chagrin, Garcillano clones in and out of the Comelec lost a vital source of income through alleged tampering of the numbers during the counting. Other means of cheating were attempted, through computer signal-jamming and other creative ways.
But computerized elections are here to say, notwithstanding the attempts of nonbelievers to go back to manual counting. Fast and less-friendly to manipulators, the computers have made the whole process quick as lightning and almost impenetrable by crooks (unless the crooks are the same ones running the elections).
The downside is that the swiftness of the computers also brought us the election-results letdown just as fast. Our dismay over the list of the “usual suspects” running for key positions during the campaign quickly became reality with the speed of light. Look at the names of some of the senatorial winners and you’ll know what I mean. And locally, Joseph Estrada, the luckiest guy in all politics, is back in harness and will soon preside over the further decay of the once proud city of Manila. Many other undeserving or unqualified politicians have won seats all over the country.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, the French say with a shrug to lament the unchanging state of things even as all things change. On the surface, things change—in politics, in society, in life. There’s movement, activity, stirring in society, in public. But, to use a redundant compound word, the end-result is the same. The same political names, affiliations and coalitions prevail. No new blood, only new dynasts.
And even the young blood who tried their luck in the various contests weren’t so hot themselves. One or two newcomers among the senatorial candidates were articulate, but they didn’t really say anything innovative, profound or inspiring.
Ah, well, that’s politics. It’s so sleazy and rotten, good and qualified people are loath to dirty their fingers and reputations with it. The Philippines needs upright people to cleanse politics because it’s dirty, but upright people don’t want to enter politics because it’s dirty. That’s our political Catch-22.
Leandro DD Coronel’s column, Manila Observer, appears in Fil-Am newspapers in Toronto and Washington.
Although long dead, the “King of Philippine movies,” Fernando Poe Jr., is still drawing fans. This is evident in the surprising showing of his daughter, Grace Poe, a political neophyte, in the initial counting of votes for the Senate. Grace is leading all the other candidates in the partial and unofficial count so far.
There is no doubt that the King, even in death, helped Grace get those votes.
She has no experience, no qualifications for her run for the Senate except her parents, FPJ and Susan Roces. In fact, her commercials and ads unabashedly made full use (some say too opportunistically) of her parentage. She used, not her formal surname Llamanzares, but Poe, in bold capital letters. Her ads and commercials shouted that she is the daughter of the great FPJ.
Grace said repeatedly in her campaign speeches, commercials and ads that she wants to continue what her father started—whatever that is, she did not say. And nobody can remember what he started, apart from the very successful (in the box office) action movies. One TV commercial showed her and mother Susan talking about what she is going to do in the Senate and inevitably the talk went to the advocacies of her father. The commercial ended with Susan saying “Promise yan, ha,” and Grace answering, “oPOE.” Another commercial had her saying “Grace POE” and “oPOE” and “Hindi POE.” Her posters show a picture of FPJ hovering beside her like a guardian angel.
Obviously, the masses love the King for the roles he played in the movies—the poor, humble, soft-spoken champion of the oppressed and downtrodden who will erupt into deadly action when the villains get out of bounds. And that love has been transferred to his daughter who, by the way, is taking her amazing spurt with amazing grace.
Many more people now believe that FPJ won the presidential election in 2004 but was cheated by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The same movie persona as the champion of the masses also has catapulted FPJ’s “pare,” Erap Estrada (Erap is “pare” spelled backward), to high positions in the government, first as mayor of San Juan, then senator, then vice president, then president, and now mayor of Manila, making an amazing comeback after being kicked out of Malacañang and going to prison for plunder. Not only that, his popularity as a movie hero has allowed him to establish his own political dynasty. He was able to have his wife Loi and son Jinggoy, and now son JV Ejercito, elected to the Senate, and his mistress Guia Gomez elected, twice, as mayor of San Juan.
It was Erap who convinced FPJ to run for president, and endorsed the candidacy of Grace Poe for the Senate, although he is one of the three founders of the opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), and Grace is in the Team PNoy ticket.
It is ironic and saddening that the no-nonsense drive against crime, especially drug pushing and prostitution, by reelectionist Mayor Alfredo Lim, a former police chief, National Bureau of Investigation director, and senator, has backfired against him. Also, the name “Dirty Harry” may have contributed to Lim’s loss although the original Dirty Harry (played by Clint Eastwood) was also a no-nonsense hero, a police detective who took shortcuts to put criminals away.
Nobody can deny that Lim stopped prostitution in the tourist belt and curbed drug pushing in Manila. What will happen now to his plan to build a business center in Manila’s Port Area and to make Escolta a walker’s paradise with new shops and eating places lining this famous, pedestrian-only street?
I hope the new mayor pushes these projects to fruition, even if they were conceived by his rival.
* * *
It looks like the campaign against political dynasties had no effect on the voters. Only Grace Poe, Loren Legarda and Gringo Honasan among the candidates in the top 15 of the senatorial race are not members of political dynasties.
Names played a big role in the choices of voters. Binay, Villar, Estrada, Cayetano, Aquino, Angara, Pimentel, Gordon and Magsaysay Jr. are all members of political dynasties. Jackie Enrile, son and namesake of JPE, the Senate President, is down in No. 16, far from the winning circle. JPE’s popularity was not enough to pull his son up. Maybe Jackie’s past as a tough guy pulled him down.
There are speculations in the social media that Jackie shot three persons in Cagayan. Jackie denies this; it was his bodyguard who did it, he claims. He says it’s black propaganda.
Speaking of black propaganda, did the black prop against Loren Legarda have any role in her fall from the top spot, a place she had held in all the poll surveys? Maybe.
The black prop said Loren has a property in New York that she did not declare in her earlier statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, an accusation that she vehemently denied and disproved with documents. Still, did it influence some of the voters not to vote for her so that she fell from the No. 1 spot? Or is it because Grace and FPJ just have too many fans?
Loren also claimed that the black prop was instigated by a colleague in the Team PNoy ticket who wants to be No. 1 so he can use the feat for a run for the presidency in 2016. Happily, Alan Peter Cayetano did not move up but moved down from No. 2 in the poll surveys to No. 4 in the actual count. Did the dirty trick boomerang against him? That would be poetic justice and should teach other politicians not to use black propaganda against rivals. After all, if a candidate cannot be loyal to a team mate, how can he be expected to be loyal to his constituents?
(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 16, 2013 - 12:00am
We have just conducted, without much incident, what is very likely one of the more unimportant electoral exercises in our political history.
Being unimportant, there were few surprises in this exercise. Those expected to win won. The hardest thing is not counting the votes; it is finding out what the significances are that would merit the great expense we incur for conducting things like this one.
One analyst is probably correct in describing the last elections as having returned us to the depths of traditional politics. The rule of dynasties tightened. Political parties decayed.
This probably explains why vote-buying was proliferate. So proliferate, in fact, that the Comelec tried burning the house down to rid us of the rats: an ill-fated (and illegal) attempt to close down the economy by banning large cash withdrawals. A great plague of institutionalized stupidity seems to have swept our land.
People tend to sell their votes when they nurse no passion about the politics of the day. Last week, votes were bought openly, flagrantly and cheaply. The choices were so indistinct that votes commanded such low prices. Deflation grips our electoral politics.
When the prices at which votes are sold fall to such lows, this can only be an indicator of the insignificance of choice. It does not matter much if the vote is given to Tweedledee or to Tweedledum. Life remains the same.
The cheapness by which votes were bought signals a depreciation of the electoral process. It indicts the narrow political class that controls public choices for making the exercise entirely meaningless.
It is bad enough that our political party system is seriously deteriorated. It is worse that our elections degraded into a mere parlor game for the political clans to play.
To say that the last elections were entirely personality-driven is to understate the malaise. In Monday’s elections, even the personalities at play were mere proxies of the actual power-players.
This could not be electoral democracy at its best. It is deceptive shadow play at its worst.
Palace mouthpieces try very hard to inflate the significance of the last exercise by vainly describing it a referendum on the present dispensation. How could that be? The present dispensation represents no comprehensive policy package, no clear vision and no unique agenda we might have a referendum on. The last electoral campaign was not a debate on anything. It was a mere popularity contest.
To call the last exercise a referendum on nothing in particular is to further deceive the people. It is bad enough to ask our people to go through the strenuous rituals of voting even if they had no meaningful choices to make. It is contemptuous to impute to our voters choices they never made.
To be sure, there was no dancing in our streets in the wake of Monday’s vote (like there was actual dancing in the streets of Pakistan after Sharif’s party won the elections there this week). Voter turnout was relatively low here last Monday — suggesting enough voters intelligent enough to see through the meaninglessness of it all.
Palace spin doctors court ridicule by claiming that the poll outcomes strengthen the President’s mandate. How could that be?
Midterm elections, in our case, mark the transformation of single-term presidents into lame ducks. They weaken rather than strengthen presidencies as ambitious politicians freely position away from the shadow of a finite chief executive.
The last senatorial elections reduced rather than increased the LP bloc. Bam Aquino, who capitalized on his physical resemblance to his martyred uncle, is the only LP candidate to survive the grist.
It is the NP that now holds the biggest bloc in the Senate. It is the group that will decide the distribution of power in that chamber. It is a bloc full of ambitious men ready to position for the 2016 presidential contest.
The UNA grouping in the Senate, if it is able to reel back in the NPC senators, is actually larger than the NP. Any alliance with the NP bloc will be on its terms clearly.
Historically, the modus operandi of the senators is to make things difficult for the Chief Executive in order to win concessions. The classic illustration of this was when the US bases treaty was on the table for a Senate vote. When Cory Aquino refused to yield to the myriad demands of the senators, the bases were gone.
Under the veil of asserting this chamber’s “independence”, expect the senators to inflict the usual modus operandi on a sunset presidency.
President Aquino invested the prestige of his office and his own popularity on only a few local government aspirants. The two most notable are Alfredo Lim in Manila and Ed Panlilio in Pampanga. Lim lost in a tight race to former president Joseph Estrada. Panlilio was completely creamed by Lilia Pineda.
That does not add an exclamation point to the power of the President’s endorsement.
The only notable development in this election is the emergence of the Catholic “white vote”. This, and the traditional command vote of the INC, are not easily disposed towards supporting Aquino’s 2016 endorsement.
Ironically, the biggest winner in this muddled election is a non-candidate. The Vice President fielded his daughter Nancy Binay to keep his name fresh on voters’ minds and his political machine oiled.
Nancy’s respectable performance, without having to try too hard, certainly solidifies Jojo’s position as the man to beat in the election that will matter.
With due respect to the Commission on Elections, I find no legal and factual basis for the proclamation in installment of six senatorial candidates (Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara) on May 16, and another three (Bam Aquino, Koko Pimentel and Sonny Trillanes) on the next day, May 17.
Rule and exception. The Comelec was reported to be trying to finish the official canvass at a late hour on the third day, yesterday, May 18 (past my deadline for this column), or today, and to proclaim the last three winners (Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito and possibly Gringo Honasan). This final canvass may moot the prematurity of the two earlier proclamations, but it will not lessen their baselessness and illegality at their inception.
It merely raises new questions: No one was chasing the Comelec, why the indecent haste? Why rush to proclaim without legal or factual basis? Why not wait for two days, just two days, and then proclaim all 12 legally and unquestionably?
Let us dig deeper. The entrenched legal and commonsensical rule is that winners can be proclaimed only after all ballots have been officially canvassed. The exception to this rule is when the leading candidate(s) posts an insurmountable lead, that is, when the remaining uncanvassed ballots will not adversely affect the results.
The Comelec meticulously and correctly invoked this rule and exception when it instructed the provincial and city boards of canvassers to proclaim the local winners. It should apply the same standard to its own proclamations.
To understand the exception, imagine that a total of 50 million ballots were cast in an election, of which 90 percent or 45 million were canvassed. Imagine further that each of the first nine senatorial candidates obtained more than 20 million votes while each of the other candidates had less than 15 million.
Here, even if the remaining 10 percent (or 5 million) uncanvassed votes were added to each of the other candidates, none of them could overtake the nine. In these imagined facts, the exception applies and the first nine may be proclaimed.
Look now at the real facts. When the six candidates were proclaimed on May 16, the official canvass of the Comelec covered only 72 out of the 304 certificates of canvass (COCs).
These 72 COCs represented just a little more than 13 million of the country’s 52 million registered voters. Definitely, then, the unreported votes are several times more than the canvassed votes. Even if only 70 percent of the registered voters actually voted, still the uncanvassed ballots will easily swamp the canvassed ones. Hence, the exception cannot apply.
Belatedly, the Comelec alleges that its two earlier proclamations are justified by so-called “group canvass reports.” In my long years as a lawyer, this is my first time to hear of these electoral instruments. In any event, law and settled jurisprudence require official COCs, not any other documents, as bases of senatorial proclamations.
If the Comelec wants to change its rules of proclamation even at the risk of offending jurisprudence, it is required by law to first publish its new rules and wait for the mandatory lapse of seven days after publication before it can use the new rules.
Legal enigma. Clearly, then, the first two proclamations were premature and illegal. Worse, if the final canvass did not confirm their victory, not even the Comelec or the Supreme Court could unseat them. Because once proclamation is made, “the sole judge,” says the Constitution, “of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications” of senators is the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) composed of six senators and three Supreme Court justices.
The SET can act only after the Senate is convened in late July. By that time, the nine would be sitting in the Senate. On the other hand, not all those who obtained enough votes can sit because the Senate has only 24 members. Then, the country would be faced with an undeserved legal enigma.
At this point, I hope readers realize that the prematurity and illegality of the two earlier proclamations, unless upheld and cured by the final canvass, could bring unwarranted and unnecessary legal consequences. Baseless and premature proclamations should never be repeated, especially during the presidential election in 2016. Otherwise, they could destabilize and bring unintended consequences on our democracy.
Shining moment. If and when the proclamation of the nine is confirmed by the final canvass, I believe they should be given new certificates of proclamation, containing the legal justification for their victory—namely, the correct number of votes and rank they garnered to avoid giving them the dubious distinction of being the only senators in our country’s history with premature, imprudent and illegal proclamations.
I cannot close this piece without applauding the courage and wisdom of Nancy Binay and Koko Pimentel in refusing to participate in the tainted proclamation rites. Pimentel labeled the proclamation rites as improper, arguing that candidates should not only win the elections fairly but also strictly observe the law.
Kudos also to Romulo Macalintal for calling public attention to this legal impasse and for asking the proclaimed senators to “return or surrender their certificates of proclamation … as a shining moment… of the democratic process.” And I dare say that Macalintal’s exemplary advocacy is his own shining moment for the rule of law and democracy.
It’s 9-3 in favor of the administration coalition as the final three winning senators—Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito and Gregorio Honasan—were finally proclaimed Saturday night as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) completed the canvassing of all locally cast votes in the senatorial race.
Five days after the voting ended, the Comelec, sitting as the national board of canvassers (NBOC), proclaimed as winners Villar, Ejercito and Honasan, after the last local certificate of canvass (COC) from Lanao del Norte arrived at 5.33 p.m.
Honasan successfully hung on to 12th place, beating Richard Gordon by a margin of more than 700,000 votes.
With the proclamation of all the winners, the scorecard of the mid-term senatorial election was 9-3, with the administration-backed Team PNoy winning nine slots. Only Nancy Binay, Ejercito and Honasan belong to the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.
After snubbing the Comelec’s previous proclamation ceremonies, winning candidates Binay and Aquilino Pimentel III showed up at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Saturday night, receiving their certificates of proclamation together with Villar, Ejercito and Honasan.
Pimentel said he decided to show up Tuesday night after Comelec officials addressed the concerns that he raised on Friday.
“The proclamation [on Friday] was premature [but] I asked a lot of questions and I think the system is secure enough, and it’s now more difficult to manipulate than the one we used during the manual [voting],” he told reporters.
He was wearing a barong Tagalog when he arrived at the PICC about an hour after Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. announced that the last three winning senators would be proclaimed Saturday night.
“They showed me that 100 percent of [the local votes] are in and that they’re just waiting for the OAV [overseas absentee vote]. If you sum it all up, the overseas vote, even theoretically speaking, it will no longer change the results,” he said.
Binay’s parents, Vice President Jojo Binay and Elenita Binay, were at the proclamation as were Ejercito’s parents, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez.
Villar’s husband, Sen. Manuel Villar, and their two children were also at the ceremony where the Comelec commissioners took turns reading out the certificates of proclamation for Binay, Pimentel, Villar, Ejercito and Honasan.
The Comelec on Saturday finished the tabulation of 129 COCs out of a total of 304, with only the overseas votes left uncounted.
Spontaneous applause broke out in the national canvassing center at 5:30 p.m. at the announcement that the last locally drawn COC from Lanao del Norte had been received electronically at the PICC.
The 129 COCs represent 39,898,992 Filipino voters out of a voting population of 52 million.
All the COCs from 106 cities and provinces in the Philippines had been canvassed, and the only ones left uncounted came from overseas absentee voting centers, many of which yielded only a few votes. Of the 304 COCs, 198 COCs are international, while 106 are local.
Brillantes said the NBOC would go on recess after the proclamation and would resume the canvassing of the party-list polls on Monday.
The ranking of the first nine senatorial winners, who were proclaimed in batches on Thursday and Friday, was unchanged, with Grace Poe, the surprise top vote-getter, leading the pack.
She was followed by Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara. The six were officially proclaimed on Thursday night in alphabetical order.
The seventh to ninth placers, who were proclaimed on Friday night, were Bam Aquino, Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes IV.
In the final three places were Villar, Ejercito and Honasan, with Gordon in 13th place behind Honasan by more than 700,000 votes in the partial official tally.