May 13, 2010

Elections post script

The main reason why the elections are largely considered to be a success is that it appears to have finally put to an end to the Arroyo era. The emergence of Sen. Noynoy Aquino and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada as top presidential candidates, both having projected themselves as staunchly anti-Arroyo, has wiped away all erstwhile fears of de facto President Gloria Arroyo’s perpetuation in power via electoral fraud and even widespread failure of elections.

The weak third place finish of Sen. Manny Villar whose survey ratings started slipping down when he failed to effectively counter the “Villaroyo” charge (that he is the secret candidate of Mrs. Arroyo) reinforces this perception, as do the defeat of her chief loyalists former executive eecretary Ermita, former presidential legal counsel Gonzalez, former Justice secretary Devenadera, former House Speaker Nograles, former Armed Forces Chief Esperon and presidential gofer Mike Defensor etc. to a lesser degree.

Ironically many believe that clear proof of the 2010 elections being clean and honest is that the reported outcome conforms to survey results, as though elections are meant to validate survey results. In the same vein, some quarters (particularly in the Aquino camp) had earlier threatened to oppose and condemn elections as fraudulent should the results not tally with survey findings that showed their favored candidate leading the pack.

Regardless of proof of significant cheating that poll watchdogs may subsequently unearth that can throw doubt on the outcomes for certain national and local positions, most people accept the victory of Mr. Aquino as President-elect because it means that Mrs. Arroyo will be stepping down come June 30th.

The novelty of electronic-speed precinct counting, transmitting and canvass of votes has apparently all but swept away (or under the rug) all questions, doubts, uncertainties and potential loopholes for fraud using the Automated Electronic System (AES) chosen by the Elections Commission without resolving them convincingly or with finality.

Thus, while the random manual audit -- the closest thing to a verification of the correctness of the automated count -- has barely begun, few are inclined to question the results. Even most of the major losers, traditionally the most vociferous protesters, have conceded defeat to the frontrunners.

Notwithstanding the prevalent view and sentiments, it is still quite premature to conclude that the automated elections were a big success. Of late, reports are trickling in of irregularities that appear at first glance to be isolated, but could be significant if experienced in many areas.

The thing about technology is that the laws of nature, unlike the laws of human beings, are near absolute and unforgiving. A technical glitch, intended or not, cannot be concealed or papered over forever. Sooner or later, it manifests itself, albeit belatedly, and usually with a vengeance.

Needless to say, there is a need to undertake a complete and independent audit of the way that 2010 elections took place, starting with the automation system and the way everything else about the voting process was configured to that innovation rather than to ensuring that the entire exercise could be as democratic as possible. The chaotic proceedings in the crowded precincts, the long lines in the hot sun, the interminable wait to be allowed to vote – all conspired to disenfranchise voters on top of the ballot rejection and the missing names in the voters’ registry.

Nonetheless, elections were held nationally with failure declared only in a few areas. This despite all the blunders and mishaps which in reality indicated that we were on the brink of major systems failure just before election day itself.

This is a testament to the fortitude of the voters who persisted in exercising their right to vote despite tremendous odds and to the people’s overwhelming desire for change, even if only, for now, a mere change in administration. It is not a testament to the strength or integrity of the AES, not to mention the entire electoral system, nor the efficiency and credibility of the Comelec.

The prospect of a widespread failure of elections resulting in an unprecedented situation where there is no clear line of succession to Mrs. Arroyo was just unacceptable to the people. Too bad for the Arroyo clique, it was also unthinkable for the ruling classes, foreign big business, and the United States, the only Superpower with the biggest geopolitical and economic stakes in its former colony.

The explosion of rage and protest such a situation could unleash would be far too messy and threatening to the status quo. There was the likelihood of the political situation polarizing once more: the hated and isolated Arroyo regime versus the people, a united legal Opposition and all democratic forces including those of the Left.

But there would be no assurance that the momentum of the people’s uprising could be controlled to stop at ousting Mrs. Arroyo and ensconcing an Opposition leader, not even Mr. Aquino. In another “people power” uprising, a more radical, if not revolutionary agenda, will confront the country’s ruling elite and their foreign backers.

Be that as it may, the Noynoy Aquino presidency is upon us. What can the people expect?

As Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change pointed out, “The first 100 days of the Aquino administration will be crucial. This period will reveal and set the tone on the priorities of the new government as well as demonstrate the intent, if not ability, of Aquino to address the injustices that our people have long been suffering.”

Having run on a platform and a campaign that offered no fundamental reforms, not to mention his class interests that run counter to social change, Mr. Aquino can hardly be expected to "rock the boat", so to speak, notwithstanding his promise of battling corruption and prosecuting Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts.

It would be difficult to imagine him rising higher than his mother, President Cory Aquino, who in 1987 passed off the golden opportunity to institute radical reforms and prosecute the Marcos clique after proclaiming a "Freedom Constitution" that gave her wide latitude to do so.

Whatever Mr. Aquino’s interests and intentions, our people will continue to demand from government urgent as well as fundamental socio-economic reforms; at the same time, they will have to rely on their own organized strength to attain such change.

Like the laws of nature that are independent of human will, there are also laws of history that we may not alter at our whim.

It would be good for President-elect Aquino to keep in mind that an oppressed and downtrodden people will most certainly rise up to institute the change they truly need and deserve. #

*Published in Business World
14-15 May 2010


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