The Long View
The enemy of my enemy is my friend
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:59:00 04/11/2010
THE Liberals and Nacionalistas are now tangling over who gets to get the 6th copy of the election returns on Election Day. To be entitled to the copy requires Comelec designation as the dominant minority party – a kind of bureaucratic throwback to the two-party era. William Gatchalian of the Nationalist People’s Coalition summarizes the strategic advantages of the designation: “First, the [access to] election returns [ERs]” is the traditional advantage; but in addition, he says, “in the computerized system you also get your own server, so the flow of information [from Comelec to the party] is faster.”
But then why is Gatchalian of the NPC talking about the advantages of dominant minority party status, when it’s the NP that wants it? The NP and the NPC (itself an offshoot of the NP) say they’re coalesced and their coalition means they deserve the designation. Why the NP needs the NPC is best borne out by the statistic put out in a recent commentary by Joel Rocamora who is with the Aquino campaign: “The prevailing wisdom in this campaign is that Villar money has enabled him to build a bigger and better machinery than Aquino. The facts are opposite. The LP has 7,576 candidates down to municipal councilor to the NP’s 6,942; 136 congressional candidates to the NP’s 77; 37 gubernatorial candidates to the NP’s 26; 723 mayoral candidates to the NP’s 579. In an Aquino-Villar face off, Aquino is dominant in NCR, CAR and regions 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12. Villar is stronger only in regions 1, 5 and 11. There’s a tie (neither candidate has an advantage) in regions 2, 7 and 13.”
Now comes the NPC which says it has 2,375 candidates and so puts the NP over the top, vis-a-vis the LP, if you total their candidates. Manuel Roxas II points out, however, that there was a Comelec deadline for registering coalitions and the NP-NPC failed to meet the deadline; he also says the NPC top brass themselves haven’t publicly announced any merger or coalition with the NP. Nonetheless, it seems the LP will be brushed aside, and whether or not there’s really a coalition, the Comelec will say there is one and ergo, the NP and NPC get dominant minority party status. And if anybody doesn’t like it they can take it to court, all the way to the Supreme Court.
Where, incidentally, a case has been filed by the President’s lawyer, Romulo Macalintal Jr., to declare the Presidential Electoral Tribunal as it exists today unconstitutional. Basically his case argues the tribunal is an added function of the Supreme Court, but not a separate entity entitled to its own seal, rules, personnel, budget and so forth, because that would mean a violation of the prohibition on officials holding multiple offices. His case before the high court means it will be asked to decide whether it has been unconstitutionally using up public funds to decide presidential electoral protests; and even if that ethical question is sidestepped, it would only further shield the court from scrutiny if it decides that, yes, it decides such cases as it does all other cases before it.
What the Supreme Court “which according to a Sun-Star report has manned the tribunal since 1957 although rules were only promulgated in 2005″ and the Comelec have in common is that they are arguably still thinking along pre-martial law lines without having really imbibed the post-Edsa system. Ideally in a multiparty system, for example, the old distinctions between majority and minority are irrelevant and every party or coalition should be entitled to copies of election returns, whatever the logistical nightmare involved. Ideally the Supreme Court should be aware that what had merely been a precedent laid down after Garcia’s midnight appointments was enshrined in the Constitution itself in 1987 but obviously, that’s not the case: and even if Macalintal’s case is exotic in its argumentation, the blunt reality is, there’s an even chance the current Supremes might uphold it.
Where does this leave the Liberal and other parties, none of which enjoy the cozy relationship the NP or NPC has with the powers-that-be? They are left gearing up to fight blind on election day and thereafter. The Comelec claims results will be known locally, within a day or two; and nationally within two to three days or at most a week. The only antidote to fraud is to see returns trickling in, in real time, which is where servers come in; and protests high and low will require the forensic accounting that election returns make possible.
Instead, outside the chosen ranks of the Frankenstein coalition, and the NP-NPC, all the other national campaigns will have to trust the Comelec, which itself authorized only one watchdog from the citizenry – the docile and loveable PPCRV. Trust might be possible if the much-ballyhooed safeguards were in place. But again, having tried to sneak through multimillion-peso plastic folder purchases, the Comelec ended up less capable when it comes to security markings (no longer built into the machines, which foils the purpose of security markings and machine validation: it allows a switcheroo); allowing an independent review of the source code (none has taken place); or the Random Manual Audit, which it says will take place two weeks after elections, long after people have been proclaimed, and which is almost midway, for example, to the deadline for proclaiming a new president and vice president by June 30 at the latest, otherwise a constitutional crisis is triggered.
Is this the Mother of All Examples of Murphy’s Law, the administration maneuvering to expand its options by keeping all potentially pesky documents in friendly hands, giving it time to assess the results of election day, or or is it simply the puzzling situation of regulations being strictly applied to non-friendly forces by the government – while giving free passes to its friends or enemies of its enemies (and thus its friends)? You decide.
Postscript: The question of course is whether the NPC is acting as a party or whether what the Comelec has acted upon is an alliance between factions of the NPC and the leadership of the NP. A chart mappoing out where the various NPC party bigwigs stand is instructive, pointing to no cohesive, official, party stance. Another is a chart of areas where NPC and NP candidates are competing for the same position. On the other hand, this list of local candidates associated with the administration and also in alliance with the NP, is instructive.
Benigno Aquino III
Manuel Villar Jr.
The Long View