A drawn-out process

As the headlines continue to focus on the tit-for-tat regarding Maguindanao (such as: ‘ERs’ disprove Maguindanao zero votes for GO bets, and Migz: I can take defeat, but how about Koko?, see also Adel Tamano’s column, as well as blogger Patsada Karajaw who takes a dim view of Zubiri, and A Simple Life, who takes a dim view of Koko), I thought I should ask someone knowledgeable about election controversies for his opinion. So yesterday, I spoke to Christian Monsod and he said, we should bear some things in mind:

1. There is always the possibility that there were acceptable elections, on the local level, but unacceptable elections on the national level; one shouldn’t assume that it’s a case of local elections prove national elections, or vice-versa.

2. The various election watchdog groups have spoken up, time and again, that the senatorial elections were tainted. One reason is the claim by Team Unity, that it achieved a 12-0 sweep. On what basis was the claim made, and why has TU never produced documents to back up its claim? Ultimately, the real choices are between setting aside the results of the senatorial vote in Maguindanao, or holding a fresh election but under very strict scrutiny, and under certain conditions.

3. The Comelec, in its fact-finding mission, pointed to the documents posted in various precincts. But they seem to be rather immaculate, considering these are documents supposedly tacked, stapled, taped, to blackboards. So while the documents that were “found” seem to comply with form and substance, are they genuine?

4. There is a two-step process involved before the Comelec can even consider proclaiming the 12th senator. First, there’s the canvassing before the Provincial Board of Canvassers in Maguindanao. Then there’s the canvassing at the National Board of Canvassers in Manila. Each step of the way, lawyers are involved, and if railroading is attempted, it will only strengthen any appeal to the Supreme Court.

5. He expects the process to still be a long one, and messy: and one consideration is, can the government afford a messy process still taking place, as the President delivers her state of the nation address?

Please read this entry by Morofilm (who is from Maguindanao) on the Maguindanao mess. He writes,

It’s already a big burden on our backs to prove to the world that being Moro is not synonymous to Abu Sayyaf or Al Qaeda. For those who live in Maguindanao, proving that we are not a fraudulent people is a new battle. Or is it?

But you say these are all allegations. They have their precedents. I don’t recall which year it was, but my cousin Phillip and his best friend Junie conducted a political experiment. I was an accomplice since I was not yet of legal age. For senators, they wrote the names of Elsa Payumo, Nora Daza and Elaine Cuneta in their ballots. During counting, they expected the votes would be counted. The three ladies received zero in that precinct.

A few years later, I became party to electoral fraud myself, sort of. I was delivering boxes of juice to a precinct in one of the towns in Maguindanao. An elder cousin, who was a councilor of the town, called me and asked me if I had the time to fill up ballots —ballots that were two inches thick. Before I could react, he gave me a pencil and directed me to a chair inside the precinct. On my third ballot, the lead broke and I made it a convenient excuse to dash out of the place.

And they say electoral fraud in Maguindanao is a figment of the loser’s hyperactive imagination.

He goes on to say,

Hold the chainsaw. I am not yet finished. There has been electoral fraud in Maguindanao for as long as I can remember. Or since I was old enough to vote. Electoral fraud is a non-issue if a leader of a town or a province holds enough influence to be unchallenged in the polls. That gives him the rein to direct the contents of the certificates of canvass or CoCs. Because of his influence, he can even decide who to put in the municipal council or provincial board, usually political allies and family members. Choices for senator depend on party affiliations, and, as Senator Panfilo Lacson puts it, the capability of a candidate to buy votes, regardless of party affiliation. One just needs to show the money.

Election fraud only becomes an issue if two parties are fiercely vying for the posts. There would be finger pointing, who cheated who, and lawyers would take turn crediting and discreting the CoCs, showing off their oratorical prowess to convince the Comelec that their clients rightfully got the mandate of the people.

So why not check the Certificates of Canvass (CoC’s)?

The CoCs are not the most reliable documents to check if one cries electoral fraud. They can be easily fabricated. Hello Gracia, they can even be prepared a day before the elections. The Comelec can waste money and time looking for the Maguindanao CoCs, which were reportedly lost according to the provincial election officer Lintang Bedol, but it won’t prove a thing.

Those who are crying fraud should instead check individual ballots. But that’s not going to be easy since the Comelec could always deny this motion. But lawyers would know what to do. Ballots are the best evidence of electoral fraud. More often than not, they have been filled up by the same person, usually with a ratio of 10:1, either in the polling precincts on election day or a secret location the night before. This would pose another problem. You have to be a handwriting expert to spot the scam. If you are not, hire one. Which brings me to an issue in the Lanao special polls in which experts from the National Bureau of Investigation were brought in to authenticate signatures but were dismissed by the Comelec for heaven knows what. While you are at it, hire a fingerprint expert as well because the same person will put his fingerprints in all boxes that require them.

Witnesses would be helpful in establishing electoral fraud but most of them are scared out of their wits to even say a single word. Unless one wishes to be a cold corpse. Whatever happened to the teacher who verified massive fraud in a TV news program? The one who was even present at a rally protesting accusations that teachers were part of the fraud?

But in the end,

The Comelec en banc has not counted the Maguindanao votes for senators yet. A special elections is far fetched. Koko Pimentel’s petition in the Supreme Court has a fifty-fifty chance of being granted. Should the Comelec en banc choose to count the Maguindanao CoC, it can mean that electoral fraud can and will prevail not only in the province but in our country’s electoral experience.

Unless the people say enough is enough.

Philippine Commentary says one thing to consider, is that whoever ends up the 12th senator will determine who becomes senate president. He quotes a source and its fearless forecast:

The thought that the Warlords of Sharif Aguak and dastardly bastards like Lintang Bedol have their filthy hands on the nation’s fate leaves me weak. My source fearlessly predicts the following scenario:

(1) The Supreme Court will throw out Koko Pimentel’s ill-advised petition for being “premature” and in the nature of “pre-proclamation controversy” over which the Comelec has “exclusive jurisdiction” (according to the Omnibus Election Code).

(2) Weakened by such a setback, the Comelec will brazenly proclaim Migs Zubiri the twelfth winning senator and let Koko file an election protest.

Based on what is known, Koko will probably win that protest…eventually…and serve one day in the Senate sometime in 2013.

A rare agreement: Palace, Left welcome summit on slays.

Overseas, a weird story: Spain hit by plague of blood-sucking black flies. And see: Estonia has no paper laws any more.

News like RP unlikely to hit 2007 fiscal goal – Fitch led to my column for today, which is Unable to pass the buck.

Check out the column of William Pesek in Bloomberg which enumerates the reasons for some skepticism on the part of investors concerning our government, but the reasons others are salivating, too. Then check out the Business Mirror editorial, which urges the government to take a more focused approach to tax collection. the editorial also points out, government will be hard-pressed, indeed, not to raise taxes, somehow. One way? See this: Toll ways VAT to yield P1B. This, even as Japanese firms press P7-B VAT claims.

A related article: DOF reveals data that broke fiscal back on Buñag’s fate. On the question of “window-dressing,” see Philippine Politics 04, and on the topic of economic growth figures, there’s an interesting look at them over at Placeholder: he wonders why, after government ends up adjusting reported figures, government spokesmen don’t revise the figures they quote, too.

Yesterday, the Inquirer editorial, echoing an observation by the International Federation of Journalists, renewed the paper’s call to decriminalize libel. The editorial made reference to this essay by a professor in Georgia State University:

Read this summary, as well, of Libel laws in the Philippines.

In response to the editorial, Phoenix’ Eyrie strongly objected, saying that media is too enamored of its freedoms and unwilling to face up to its responsibilities; libel is the ultimate defense of a helpless public. Lagalag also reproduces an open letter than takes media to task for keeping people ignorant and politically superficial.

In Inquirer Current, my entry yesterday focuses on Korea, and what one British author says is a crisis their society is undergoing.

Asian Energy Advisors says a life-and-death struggle, over the future of the National Electrification Administration, may be going on. The bone of contention is yet another Executive Order.

failing to plan is planning to fail, on the dynamics and relationship between the state, the private sector, and civil society And the blogger asks some probing questions:

I understand that business is a profit-oriented undertaking. There are so many risks involved. For me, it seems only fair that those who take chances should be rewarded, provided that profit is not gained at the expense of other people. The businesses must also ensure that their profit goes back to the State in some other way. The money should circulate INSIDE the country and not siphoned out. In that case, the rich only gets richer, and the poor is being sucked dry.

Take for example the case of big shopping malls like Henry Sy’s SM. We all lionize (to use Prof. Serote’s term) Henry Sy because of his “contribution” to our country’s economy. Contribute how? Having the third biggest mall in the world does not necessarily translate to prosperity. Filipinos spend the hard-earned money of their OFW relatives on buying stuff that are made outside the country. We are contributing to the economy of that country, not ours. Most of the money that we pay to SM and deposit in its bank (Banco de Oro- EPCI) is invested by Mr. Sy in China, not in the Philippines (Prof. Serote read in a PAL in-flight magazine that the taipans have a contest among themselves on who invests the heaviest in China). We are enriching China, while draining our own pockets and only so little goes back.

And what of the dollar remittances of OFWs? These are being used to pay off our international debts.

mysteries of life on the need for personal change to accomplish political change.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

9 thoughts on “A drawn-out process

  1. its time we give full faith and credit to the actions and judgments of our duly-constituted institutions. let the officials acting on their behalf be held accountable for such actions according to due process of the law. second guessing and monday morning quarter backing by the partisan media must be given the minimum importance that they deserve.

  2. Ben,

    Full faith and credit can only be given to those who have not betrayed the public trust. As the old adage says, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me”.

    Nagoyo na minsan, tama na yun.

  3. thanks, cvj, but i don’t think i am either. i am just saying we should respect the judgments of our institutions but we must be vigilant and merciless against the malfeasance of miscreant public officials.

    jaxius, got you. however, we have to be certain about the “betrayal”. and the determination must be within the rule of law, not through vigilantism or gossip mongering.

  4. Ben,

    Well, I haven’t asked for their heads, at least, not yet. I just don’t want to give them full faith and credit.

  5. Ben,

    Institutions stand for processes. They do not make actions and judgments, it is the people who comprise them that do. This little debate of ours, I think, sprung out of that small misunderstanding.

    One cannot but give faith to the process, the laws require no less.

  6. jaxius, when the supreme court renders a decision (whether unanimously, by majority or plurality), it is the “action” and “judgment” of the supreme court, not of cj puno or justice carpio, or other ponente.

    when i give “full faith and credit”, it is to the institution, not to the individuals operating it. i distinguish between the office and the incumbent. if the incumbent was bad, i would advocate its replacement but not necessarily the abolition of the office (unless it is of proven uselessness as the senate). i wouldn’t normally advocate throwing away the baby with the bathwater, so i would not agitate for the sacking of comelec just because some people think its officials are not doing their job properly. but i am all for prosecuting and punishing whoever is guilty.

    i think this is all part of obedience to the rule of law.

  7. Ben,

    I bristle at the idea of giving “full faith” on something as if to give it the mantle of religious conviction. Faith, in my understanding, is to believe without reason. What of full faith? Judgments and decisions, even if made by the Supreme Court as you exemplified, are not infallible.

    If the institution makes a judgment or decision, I’d follow it. That however does not mean I cannot question it or that I should like it. Imagine if lawyers gave “full faith” to the decisions of the Supreme Court made during Martial Law. We’d still have Javellana vs Executive Secretary as a rule.

    To follow the rule of law does not mean to follow it blindly. The law may be the law, but it does not mean it is always right.

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