The Long View: The enemy of my enemy is my friend

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.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

13 thoughts on “The Long View: The enemy of my enemy is my friend

  1. With the apparent decapitation and eventual dismemberment of the Shelleyan monolith during the dying days of the campaign, we should expect the ranks of the NP to swell, (shouldn’t we?) thus rendering the figures of Rocamora (favouring the LP) obsolete in all probability.

    I, for one, wonder why in this era of automation where the problems of physically carbon copying a document no longer apply, cannot all political parties be given hard and soft copies of the election results? It seems this arcane vestige of the old manual system was left in place for no good reason (or was it left there perhaps intentionally by some devious mastermind?). Hmmm…(!)

  2. Elections in the Philippines are, indeed, arcane. What remains constant is that “in the public interest” is only a motherhood statement that is meant to disguise every candidate’s vested interest. There are no good guys here.

  3. And this is where the weakness of LP had been exploited by the administration. LP had overlooked this part of the battle or it is too late based on the rules. I would imagine Villar smiling as supported by FG operatives.

    Nobody stressed enough the importance of the copy of the election return to which the dominant minority party is entitled. It could mean the lifeline of a would be president.

    I still remember when the government slapped a huge assessment on the company that I worked before, our only recourse was to go over the sampling and showed where the bias or error occurred and localized it to prove that the result is smaller in company’s favor as opposed to huge assessment.

    The 6th copy entitled the party direct access to the flow of Comelec information. The information can be used as soon as possible to detect statistical anomaly especially in hotly contested areas so the legal team can focus and strategize. In the hotly contested 2000 US presidential elections, Gore legal team knew where to poke until the SC weigh in.

  4. The picture right now, LP is at disadvantage. The administration gets direct Comelec info and so does NP which the First Gentleman supported.

  5. Hi, Manolo

    I still don’t know who to vote for president. You’re in Noynoy’s inner circle, right? Can you tell me what you imagine will be his first year in office. What changes will he immediately bring and what challenges will face him. (Maybe in the next couple of posts?)

    I’m sure you remember I wrote once I cannot stomach him as president. Now maybe I can since he’s well ahead in the polls. If one has to eat only dinuguan, one has to understand dinuguan is at least healthy for you. So what do you say?

    Oh, been reading Miguel S.’s ILUSTRADO. Great stuff, really. The first Filipino novel I really connected with.

  6. Much as Manolo would like to try to portray his candidate as the “good guy”, evidence shows that there really are no good guys in our horizon.

    Manolo’s candidate is no Mr. Clean and has used his mother’s and his family’s influence for his own profit and advantage. And his backers are not above smearing dirt and swiftboating other candidates. There are no heroes here. Much as some would like to try to deluded the public about their candidate.

    It’s not that there are absolutely no well-meaning candidates, but they are mostly marginalized. And generally perceived by the public as “flakey” or extreme. 🙂

  7. I agree with carl re there is no good guy in the horizon. In Philippine politics at least, there cannot be a good guy, good guys finish last here – losers…
    Good guys do not belong in politics, so its better we accept the reality that there are no mr cleans here, just acceptable, tolerable, alternatives to Gloria clones…

  8. I don’t know what to make of your analogy. All the candidates, except for Villar, have put forward a platform which is as good as any as a statement of intent. I think the most basic change one can expect from any administration is a change in attitude and it then depends on the forces arrayed to block that, which traditionally were kept in check by the extent of the mandate. So much depends on how the electiosn turn out, whether credible or a mess, and the composition of Congress and the local governments. Therefore the candidate’s statement of intent has to be reckoned against the election, its outcome, and I don’t think anyone can really gauge how things might be until the convening of Congress for the new president’s state of the nation address, about a month into the new term.

  9. With 63% of the voters ” not for Noynoy” just like
    63%-plus of voters “..not for Villar” then might as
    well start claiming “No mandate!”.

    GMA getting Congress becomes convenient as the lightning rod.
    So will slogan of “GMA Talsik Diyan!! not ever stop????

  10. I always maintained that, aside from Erap, there were no bulls in the china shop among the presidential candidates. Having said that, no gems either. We can live with all of them. Just as we have muddled through a list of mediocre, to possibly disastrous, presidents for the past 60 or 70 years. I don’t expect any economic miracles to happen in our country during the next 6 years. It’ll still be patchy at best, and every man for himself.

    While the conduct and the credibility of the May 2010 elections will crucial, it will be more about not starting on the wrong foot, in case it turns out to be violent, messy or unconvincing. If the elections turn out fine, it still doesn’t mean that everything else will turn out hunky-dory.

    The composition of Congress and local governments may give us a vague idea of what to expect. But, chances are, at least three-quarters of incumbents, or their proxies, will get elected. I don’t think that’ll change the political landscape. LP’s, NP’s, NPC’s are all embracing the usual suspects, mostly trapo’s and former GMA collaborators. Many old GMA stalwarts, such as Joey Salceda, Sonny Belmonte, Ralph Recto and Davao’s Rodrigo Duterte are with the LP. The NP also has taken its share. These old tigers may change their stripes, but it’s unlikely they’ll change their ways.

    As for the new president’s statement of intent, I can only say “been there, heard that”. It’ll take much more than statements or good intentions (even assuming that the president elect were earnest about bringing about a new attitude) to make any meaningful changes. They all usually start with a flourish and end with a whimper.

    And they all have their supporters and financiers, who mostly have their own agenda. So the best attitude will be: “Hope for the best, but don’t bet on it!”.

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