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May 06

Almost an Epic Fail

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C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre [It is magnificent, but it is not war].

—Pierre Bosquet, 1854 (on the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade)

For 24 hours it seemed the effort of people like Christian Monsod (see his May 1 commentary ‘Let’s not feed people’s fears with gov’t plots’ ) to calm the waters and boost public confidence in the coming elections would fail. As machines started being rolled out their testing led to a barrage of reports of glitches.

I was told that Smartmatic had a meeting with the Comelec Tuesday night and asked for a 30 day delay in the holding of elections. The Comelec rejected the appeal, and the result was yesterday’s press conference. However, Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez denied a request was made.

I don’t think we should discount the breathtaking ambition of the logistical feats Smartmatic is supposed to accomplish if elections are to be held on Monday. Everything from a pledged massive deployment of the Philippine Air Force, even the drafting of 13 private choppers, the lending of private aircraft, in a logistical operation that has all the characteristics of the Berlin Airlift -except the coverage is from Aparri to Jolo.

Wednesday marked the maximum point of doubt over whether the Comelec would end up postponing the elections or not.

What’s clear is there was s a proposal to postpone or delay the elections coming from the Palace (or the President’s election lawyer: same difference!). Overlooked in the concentration on technical issues is that a postponement would allow the President to appoint the next Chief Justice even before elections.

The Palace, after “supporting” the call of the President’s election lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, backpedaled and so Macalintal fell on his sword and resigned.

It may be entirely possible a majority in the Comelec as well as Smartmatic itself believed the fallout from a postponement of the polls would be unbearable. The problem is foreign journalists and observers have already started arriving, and the electorate has already geared up for polls. Not to mention the fury this would have provoked among the candidates and their supporters. So that proposal had to shelved but at least a sense of urgency and looming crisis was already propagated.

As it is, the Comelec has pledged to pursue matters along three tracks:

1. Elections to proceed with machines per precinct as planned.

2. Contingencies for the manual counting of votes in up to 30% of the precincts as previously planned for in the Comelec’s own contingency planning.

3. The provision of Municipal counting machines if the first fallback of bringing ballots to be counted by he machines of neighboring counting machines fails; this will, of course, involving the securing and transportation of ballots in wholesale batches to the regional/municipal counting machines.

Further damage control is taking place, with the Supreme Court ordering the Comelec (news released this evening) to disclose all poll automation details, from the source code to certifications and the procedures for random manual audit terms and protocols.

If one adopts Christian Monsod’s arguments -and by all accounts, he believes this week’s snafus are technical glitches and not because of a plot- then all’s well that ends well. I personally believe that what was instructive was that the Palace was prepared to try to push a postponement of the elections, and only retreated when the public alarm threatened to have international repercussions -and giving at least some of those in the Comelec the benefit of the doubt, perhaps a faction prevailed upon the whole to push through with the elections rather than send the credibility of the whole process into a tailspin.

Still, there are avenues for opportunity for an administration that thrives when the landscape is shrouded in the fog of war. Considering the expanding list of options -from manual counting to fully automated counting in precincts to the automated counting of ballots in other places- the opportunities for human error, and remarkable events to transpire, expands, too: and with it, the possible scenarios to consider and possibly profit from.

These are made even more interesting by what will be tomorrow’s main news: the publication of the last pre-election survey, the results of which were already leaked today. More on that tomorrow.

And they are made even more intriguing by other factors which I will delve into on Saturday.

14 comments

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  1. abemargallo

    There’s another alternative Manolo. Taasan na lang ng kamay (remember the Marcos Constitution?), then use cell phone to take a pic and post the image on YouTube. Onli en da Pilipins!

  2. Carlos V Jugo

    The very concept of entrusting counting of votes to a black box is problematic which is why i raised my concerns last August. Subsequent events have only serve to validate this. Even if the COMELEC is composed of angels, there has to be a manual verification. If we prepared for 100% manual counting as i recommended last September, then these epic last minute efforts would not have been necessary.

  3. Carl Cid Inting

    They are counting votes manually in the ongoing U.K. polls. Yet the results are quite rapid and uncontroversial.

  4. thecusponline

    Recall that prior to 1972, people were threatening revolution if Marcos declared Martial Law. We all know what happened when he did. Nothing. Instead it gave Marcos the excuse to jail his detractors based on a charge of rebellion.

    For the very same reason, there ought to be more caution by the anti-GMA camp in issuing blatant or even veiled threats of People Power if the outcome is not as desired. It might lay the grounds for arresting them in the “foggy” after-math of an election that produces no clear outcome due to automation failure.

  5. ramrod

    CVJ,

    Nothing can stop automation, its such a big business, so much money to be made…after talking to some comelec suppliers, its disgusting really…although I could have made some money on the side though if I was quick enough, then again selling to the government is not my cup of tea…
    Follow the money trail if you can…and you’ll see that there are more important reasons over such trivial matters as honest and clean elections that only happen after a couple of years…then the cycle begins again, another opportunity na naman 🙂

  6. ramrod

    I don’t think the people round up enough balls to mount another people power of some sorts…Noynoy could well end up alone in EDSA shouting himself hoarse…

  7. ramrod

    …of course, if Manolo joins him, I’ll supply the mineral water and strepsils…

  8. nick

    Martial Law today, with PGMA retaining the top post? Naaaah! This is going to be different from the Marcos Martial Law. Marcos then was indeed hated by many people, but Marcos had his loyalists, which was about half of the population. PGMA’s approval and popularity today, in contrast to Marcos’ at the time, is negative 150%, and the hate factor is more widely spread and as intense if not more so. No, a Martial Law today will be more volatile and explosive…very risky for the President.

  9. thecusponline

    Martial law will not be needed today, just a constitutional vacuum. In such a situation, the one who controls the military and other institutions like Congress and the Supreme Court will be at an advantage.

    People who take Nick’s view may become complacent. On the other hand, caution is warranted by those who perceive a sinister scenario evolving from showing their hand. Their declarations might later come back to bite them.

  10. Carl Cid Inting

    @thecusponline makes valid points. And the sitting President doesn’t necessarily have to be involved. Anyhow, we always hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. The coming election is only one of many challenges ahead. Should Aquino-Roxas prevail, it will be interesting how they fare by the middle of their term. A honeymoon period is almost guaranteed. But it may not be a very long one. Again, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

  11. SoP

    I for one wish something “interesting” will happen ‘coz I’m fucking bored.

    And I hope they storm the streets here in Makati again ‘coz I just bought a telescope and the view from my balcony is great. Beats watching TV and surfing the net, you know, tankspotting during military misadventures.

  12. nick

    “People who take Nick’s view may become complacent.”-thecusponline

    “may”, or may not, that’s the risk. Depends on who’s in control. If very unpopular…very dangerous.

  13. SoP

    Nick is not being complacent. He just recognizes the reality of Philippine bizarro recurring rituals like:

    1. Predicting failure of elections followed by martial rule. Martial rules don’t come to fruition but are succeeded by election protests, which usually go all the way to the supreme court, in which the losing party spends millions of their money recounting ballots one by one. Manually. By hand. (Villar will probably do this). The end result being the realization they really lost pala.

    This is explained by the typical Kübler-Ross grief cycle of your average Filipino, which is 90% denial, leaving only 10% to shock-anger-bargaining-depression-acceptance stages.

    2. Post-election euphoria. The belief that this time will be different, and we’ll finally see the promise of Rizal’s promise, the ultimate wet dream of the lower class intelligentsia, that is, the first coming of the Lee Kuan Yew of the Philippines. This is usually followed by a whimper of the first 100 days and the disappointment of the first term of the legislature. Realizing that this asshole of a president we voted is not the Lee Kuan Yew we’re wet dreaming about, we take to the street in a mass orgy of vent up sexual, er, political frustration. The scientific term for it is People’s Power.

    3. to be continued-dinner time!

  14. nick

    Heheh, SoP, that’s clear enough already, you’re all out for the status quo. Mired in mud, wallow in it…enjoy!

    You’re for Martial Law too, or what thecusponline called “a constitutioal vacuum” that would maintain that status quo.

    Therefore you have your luxury of complacency, :).

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