Running updates on today’s elections are posted minute-by-minute in Eleksyon 2007 Running ACcount.
For the next few days, at least, the world will continue peeking at goings-on here. At least from time to time. Reports by the Associated Press, and from Reuters, and by online publications like the Asia Sentinel not try to place the elections in context, but serve, for many publications and news outfits, as the only Philippine-related news they’ll either get or publish.
Sylvia Mayuga puts it best: this day is a day that calls for Hawk Eyes at the Polls. Most observers will be focusing on local color, the surface signs from which one gleans a deeper understanding of our democratic behavior. This is a historic election, as today’s Inquirer editorial says:
It is crucial that we understand why, exactly a hundred years after the first nationwide vote in our history, less than four decades after the untold violence of the 1969 elections, 20 years after the divisive snap election of 1986, today’s vote seems headed for a new low.
More opportunities exist to report acts of fraud; the country’s two major networks have taken the lead in encouraging “citizen journalists” to record any suspicious activity, for possible airing on TV or uploading to their websites. At the same time, election manipulators who operated during the 2004 vote remain active (some of them, in fact, promoted to or running for higher government office). As Newsbreak magazine has reported, some of them have even learned their lessons from the Garci scandal.
The political opposition’s failure to organize, and to prepare properly for this electoral contest, has also made many of its candidates vulnerable to massive fraud. The Arroyo administration’s unwillingness, or its incapacity, to form unity tickets in all areas has given Lakas and Kampi candidates the green light to use their administration affiliation and their cash-rich war chests against each other.
The key factor, however, is attitudinal: The main reason the surveys say half of the country’s voters believe today’s elections will be dirty and dishonest lies in this administration’s increasingly pernicious culture of impunity. At its highest levels (think only of bribe-dangler Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, or of politically partisan AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon), this administration practices the most cynical of election policies: Legality is defined by what it can get away with.
But the real story starts tonight, when the counting begins and the true implications of various strategies can begin to be weighed. For example, An OFW in Hong Kong sees mischief aimed at Alan Peter Cayetano. Only when the exit polls get revealed, and the quick counts crank up, can people begin to guess if his candidacy’s survived all challenges, or won’t.
Whether its Sunday’s Inquirer editorial, or Amando Doronila, the expectation is that today’s going to prove a landmark election in many ways. Not least, as the editorial puts it,
It is for this reason that, contrary to the legal principle of regularity which the Arroyo administration invokes ad nauseam to defend itself on controversial decisions, we believe that the opposite principle actually operates during elections. We assume-we must assume-that the principle of irregularity attends the conduct of the vote.
On voters’ registration, for example: A look at the interactive Google Map available on Inquirer.net shows that some of the traditionally vulnerable-to-fraud areas enjoyed a suspiciously high increase in new voters between 2004 and 2007, while traditionally oppositionist Metro Manila suffered an unusual decline. We must assume that this is already a form of cheating.
On military involvement in the polls: The disclosure that the Army has forced its soldiers to vote uniformly, and the revelation-caught on national TV-that soldiers deployed in Camarines Sur are campaigning for the President’s son, are equally serious. We must assume, even before an investigation is complete, that some military units will be used, again, in some form of cheating.
On the news that stuffed ballot boxes have been intercepted: We must assume, together with previous dagdag-bawas victims, like Aquilino Pimentel Jr., that the cheating has in fact begun.
On reports that a river of cash is now flowing into the country’s barangays: While groups like Lente have admirably focused their attention on wholesale fraud at the canvassing level, the reality remains that much of the cheating will still happen at the retail level. Votes are still bought piecemeal, in exchange for a few hundred pesos, perhaps a little bit more. In local races, elections are sometimes decided this way. The Palace has made much of the fact that the opposition failed to field candidates in most races, but let us not delude ourselves: contests between Lakas and Kampi candidates, both administration-affiliated, both flush with cash, will be fierce too. Thus, we must assume that election cheating will also be done the traditional way: by buying the vote, one voter at a time.
And because, as Doronila explains it,
Few Philippine elections have heightened fears of massive cheating since the 1949 presidential election when the “birds and the bees voted” in Lanao province, in Mindanao, as much as the 2007 elections have.
This is so because the administration has mobilized the total machinery of the ruling political coalition (Lakas-CMD party), and the military, police and the Department of Justice as well as the government’s patronage resources behind its all-out campaign to win control of the Senate and retain its majority in the House of Representatives.
But there’s some good news, as Marites Vitug writes: Take Heart, Some Things are Changing in this Election.
My column for today is Alarming Numbers. It makes reference to the data in the Eleksyon 2007 Election Map. First, start with the Comelec’s own figures, which suggest a large increase in registered voters in some provinces:
Then refer to the information in the Newsbreak (Cheats Adjust Style for Monday Polls) on provinces targeted for special operations.
The compare that, as I did, with the Comelec’s own figures on voter registration. See for example areas controlled by administration allies, such as Cagayan:
Or areas where the votes are traditionally delayed and where intervention by operators is ofen reported:
Then look at generally opposition-oriented areas, to see the drop in registered voters (and an increase in administration-controlled areas):
Then return to t5he Newsbreak report on the strategy for cheating that operatives say will kick into place over the next few days. The report points to provinces where the administration’s set to massage the numbers by having a higher-than-expected voter turnout in places with an unusual increase in registered voters; and by maximizing the vote in places they can claim are their bailiwicks, anyway.
So here’s a map of the 2004 election results. If Newsbreak is correct, the provinces that claimed to vote Arroyo in 2004 will be where unusually high pro-administration results will also be claimed (the map is from Wikipedia).
For now, we can only hope for the best.
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