The Long View: Glee

The Long View
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:46:00 05/13/2010

A general sense of national glee greeted the conduct and current outcome of our first-ever national automated elections. In one sense I think the glee was entirely justified: we shouldn’t forget that about this time last week was the point of maximum danger, when the Arroyo administration was moving heaven and earth to postpone the polls and thereby plunge the country into the kind of uncertainty it had been trying to foster for weeks. Precisely because it saw the writing on the wall and wanted to buy time to try to maneuver a more favorable outcome for itself.

Public opposition was so widespread that the administration had to throw in the towel and permit the polls to take place, knowing what we’re seeing: not only a national repudiation but also a remarkable series of local repudiations for its allies (Ermita, Esperon, Devanadera, Bolante, Matias and Mike Defensor, Raul Gonzales and son, seem to have been vomited out by the electorate).

But I think we should bear in mind that if getting to vote was a victory, and that the voting system generally worked, the acid test for automation was the transmission of results in a speedy manner and the reporting of the results by the Comelec.

It will still take some time for the Comelec to report on the first stage of automation, how the actual casting of votes went. That is, how many turned out, how many actually got to cast their votes, and of those who cast their votes, how many had their ballots accepted by the machines and how many ballots were rejected.

The overwhelming majority of voters were able to cast their votes, it seems, and for this reason the general conclusion is that the system more or less worked. The same applies to the transmission of results from the majority of precincts. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. And here something crucial has been overlooked by the public and the media, it seems to me.

In a race where there’s a wide gap between the winner and the first runner-up, automation matters less, simply because the things automation is supposed to help deter—a slow and inefficient count prone to fraud and doubts over the outcome—aren’t very relevant. A case in point was the wide margin between Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Jose de Venecia Jr. in 1998, one widely expected by the electorate itself going into the election and which was so large a margin as to be fraud-proof.

The justification for automation was the controversial count in 2004 when the two leading contenders went into election day with neither one sure if they had an insurmountable lead. It was in such a situation that vote padding and shaving efforts had time and the chaos and confusion of a slow, manual counting of ballots on the side of the manipulators.

As it turned out, going into this year’s elections, the public had a pretty good idea of the expected results in the presidential contest but the vice-presidential race was obviously going to be too close to call. And it is in such a situation that the present automation has demonstrated its partial successes and its potential flaws.

By midnight of election day over half of the votes had been transmitted to, and reported by, the Comelec and its appointed watchdog. This was enough to satisfactorily convince most presidential candidates that the public had expressed its will at the polls—and that the Comelec’s system had generally reported the results in a conclusive manner. And so most presidential candidates conceded to Benigno Aquino III the day after the polls closed.

But not so fast and so thoroughly as to convince Joseph Ejercito Estrada who prefers to withhold comment on the results at this point. From Tuesday to mid-Wednesday, the Comelec got stuck at reporting 78 percent of the precinct results which was, apparently, still not a conclusive figure for Estrada. But the general impression seems to be that the public views the presidential contest as settled.

The same does not apply to the vice-presidential race which remains too close to call as I write this. The race was tight between Manuel Roxas II and Jejomar Binay going into election day, and the lead of Binay as reported has to be tempered by the realization that they include much of Binay’s core strength in the NCR and Balance Luzon while the overall figures still lack significant portions of Roxas’ Visayan bailiwicks. The clincher possibly being whether these Visayan bailiwicks could significantly affect the initial Binay lead. Furthermore, in a real squeaker of a race, the outcome of Mindanao voting will also matter.

Neither the Visayas or Mindanao results should be cliffhangers at this point if automation—particularly the transmission of results to the Comelec’s national office—were an unqualified success. Again: the proof of the success and validity of automation doesn’t depend on contests where winners enjoy big leads, but in close races where time is on the side of both political operators and public skepticism over the eventual results. Too long a delay can only foster precisely the kinds of doubts that can be fatal to the credibility of the mandate of the eventual, official, winner.

As it stands, I don’t see how a messy 2004-style situation can be avoided, with the vice-presidential contest potentially getting bogged down all the way to the Presidential Election Tribunal. It will take maximum statesmanship from both the eventual winner and loser to avoid turning this failure of the system into a festering bone of contention over the next six years.

It may be that the next 48 hours will tell whether glee will turn into dread.

* * *

MY daily Inquirer Radyo show debuts Thursday 9-10 a.m.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

36 thoughts on “The Long View: Glee

  1. Congress’s role of canvassing the votes for President and VP ought to be reduced to being ceremonial in nature. As to why the Comelec should stop at 78% of precincts is beyond me. The less politicised the canvassing of returns, the better it would seem in my view.

    Even if it doesn’t matter in the presidential race, the automation of counting and transmission still matters in terms of clearing the air sooner. The stock market rally and peso appreciation were in response to the credible outcome. Had the count been slow as in the past, the market atmosphere would have been dour.

    As for the doomsday scenarios that were forecast, I tended to see them as counter-productive and possibly self-fulfilling. Events seem to have proven this intuition correct. Imagine if GMA had succeeded in using these gloomy predictions in postponing the election as you allege. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed.

  2. The coverage of the VP count is allowing disinformation to spread.

    With the automated elections and returns and that unwieldy drill down website of the Comelec the media should be able to inform voters why the presidency is out of reach for Erap, and why statistically the VP-ship is not out of reach for Mar Roxas.

    We see it in the US in every election: analysis by precinct, explanations what voting areas (and their trends) remain to be tallied and transmitted and the various scenarios in which Binay could win or Mar could win.

    Educating the viewership and readership will help head off any accusations of cheating; as have already been circulated by certain parties (see Inquirer article yesterday.

  3. I guess people really don’t care anymore even if it sounds fishy. Why didn’t they transmit? Isn’t this a technical question that can easily be answered?

  4. Jojo Binay has come out and explained the situation. He has calmly and unequivocally stated that he has, for all intents and purposes, won as Vice President. Binay has stated his case very impressively, and has convincingly laid out the premise that Mar Roxas can only win if Mar and his group will engage in cheating.

    Binay discussed the remaining votes yet to be transmitted. And the numbers cited by the ABS-CBN report bear Binay out.

    Binay cited Regions VI and VII as the only areas where Roxas could obtain commanding leads. The ABS-CBN report reveals that these 2 regions, combined, have about 1 million votes left to count. Binay leads by 800,000 votes. Surely, Binay will not get zero votes in those regions. As a matter of fact, Binay showed surprising strength in those regions, despite being a neophyte in national elections.

    It will defy logic for Mar to wipe out Binay’s lead, relying on Regions VI and VII. Should that happen, Binay’s charges of cheating and vote-rigging will be very believable. It will taint any goodwill Roxas will have, and hobble the next administration.

    Binay cited his strength in all other regions. From Region I to XII. And, particularly, how he has been winning by convincing margins in Mindanao.

    Now, Region I has almost half a million votes left to be transmitted. The rest of Mindanao (excluding ARMM) has over half a million votes to be transmitted. Those areas would total about 1 million votes to be transmitted. Based on transmitted results, Binay will win those regions. Those will negate any gains Mar Roxas gets from Regions VI and VII.

    Binay is correct. The figures bear him out. Mar is simply clutching at straws. It is very difficult to admit defeat, especially after one thought, almost up to the last minute, he would coast to victory. It is very humiliating to become the subject of political science classes, for many years to come, on how a campaign can self-destruct and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It is very painful to dislodge Manny Villar as the laughingstock of the 2010 elections.

    It will take a while to sink in, but Mar Roxas and his supporters will have to wake up to reality and admit defeat. They can try to mount “special ops” in Western Visayas or in ARRM, but, at this point, it will be too obvious. Binay has driven home his point. Binay has already won.

  5. You don’t understand. Roxas is from Region 6 and we usually vote solidly for our own. If there’sone million left in that area, you can bet Roxas has reasonable claim for the VP.

  6. rian, I do understand about Ilonggo loyalty for their own. However, there aren’t a million votes left to transmit in Region VI. There are only less than 400,000 votes left to count in that region. And, although Mar did win the region, Binay scored quite well, considering. And there are still other Vice Presidential candidates to consider. Mar will not get those 400,000 votes, it will be divided among the V.P. candidates. The most Mar can hope for is to edge Binay out by 200,000 votes in Western Visayas. That’s a far cry from the 800,000 votes Binay leads Roxas.

    The 1 million votes I mentioned includes Central Visayas, which has over 600,000 votes to transmit. Although Mar may beat Binay there, it won’t be lopsided. Mar isn’t a favorite son of the Cebuano-speakers. It still won’t be enough to overcome Binay’s lead.

    Now, Region I has almost 500,000 votes to transmit. Region IV-A and IV-B have more than 600,000 votes to transmit. Binay says the transmitted votes there show that Binay won convincingly. Those are over a million votes that should go primarily to Binay. And, as Binay has consistently pointed out, Mindanao has gone comfortably in favor of Binay.

    Binay has the figures in his favor. Mar and his supporters are clutching at straws.

    Now, as far as cheating is concerned, Binay’s camp has pointed out that Mar Roxas, Franklin Drilon, Butch Abad and others in Mar Roxas’ camp were complicit in the “Hello Garci” scam. They did not say anything at that time and were part of the Arroyo administration that cheated. Let’s also not forget that the Villaraza law firm was very much in the forefront when Ramos managed to cheat Miriam Defensor in 1992. The Firm’s partners are very much behind Mar Roxas today.

  7. I believe a truthful election can go a long way in fulfilling the promises of democracy for our people. One lesson we can glean from the results: the masses aren’t stupid. They know they don’t want Arroyo and they voted accordingly–some of that windfall falling to Estrada. If elections always go like this, it can stem corruption and improve human rights. So Binay as VP, even though I am deeply skeptical of Manilenos, I can accept.

  8. Perhaps Mar Roxas doesn’t want to be like Sue Sylvester of “Glee”, who is embarrassed whenever she enters a room, because she imagines seeing people laughing at her in slow-motion.

    I wouldn’t take on Binay, though. This guy is a real street fighter. A brawler. Bugbog sarado ang labas nila dyan.

  9. I am agreeing with Carl, though the final comelec results will definitely bear that out whether correct or not. Still, even if Mar wins out at the end, he can’t escape the taint already smeared on him, it has already scarred his chances for the 2016 presidential election. Might even be better for him if he losses, he’s assured already of a major position in the Noynoy government.

  10. “Still, even if Mar wins out at the end, he can’t escape the taint already smeared on him,”

    That is the intent of some of the comments here, isn’t it? If Mar ends up winning then the entire election will become suspect and that works out well for the Gloria forever crowd.

  11. I’ve looked at the numbers on ABS-CBN and I don’t believe Mar Roxas can bridge the gap between him and Binay.

    If we distribute the remaining votes on a pro-rata basis to the two candidates alone using the current ratios of votes they received in each region, the potential gains for Roxas from Regions 3, 6, 7 and CARAGA where he is leading will be swamped by the losses in the others where he is losing.

    Binay’s lead might in fact go up. Sans some kind of miracle, I believe Binay will be proclaimed VP. Binay’s pronouncement about his apparent victory appears well-founded at this point.

  12. You see Mar is a different sort of oligarch compared to Noynoy. He’s probably the smartest in his family right now, unlike Noynoy, and he is one of their leaders even if you didn’t think he had enough independence of mind. Noynoy, the same senator who begrudgingly became the ventriloquists puppet for his family on the Luisita issue, is suspect for me because of his recent showing of loyalty toward his family. Binay wouldn’t be able to do anything about this, but Mar who comes from a similar background, is familiar with the dynamics involved in such a large, united and wealthy family.

  13. Binay has drawn first blood. Very hard for Roxas to counter.

    Binay is a brawler. An experienced and wily one at that. Binay has already tainted the Mar Roxas camp as co-conspirators in the “Hello Garci” case. And it has basis in fact.

    Very hard to get out of that bind.

    It’s damn if you do, damn if you don’t for Roxas. It’s true that, if Mar Roxas wins, the entire election will become suspect. Not a great beginning for a new administration.

    Whether Binay is correct or not (I personally believe Binay has the numbers in his favor), he has taken the wind out of the Roxas camp’s sails.

    Even if Mar were to overcome Binay’s rather large lead, it will be a Pyrrhic victory at best. Not a great position to be in.

    If this were a game of chess, Binay was several steps ahead of the Mar Roxas camp. This guy’s no pushover.

  14. I really hope Roxas wasn’t back-stabbed. It’s a dishonorable way to begin Noynoy’s term as president. It speaks volumes. Consider too the history of their families, the rumored betrayal against the Katipunan fund and so on.

  15. “If Mar ends up winning then the entire election will become suspect and that works out well for the Gloria forever crowd.” – manuel

    The ones who are making the entire election suspect are sore losers like Mar Roxas, Jamby Madrigal, Nick Perlas and JC de los Reyes.

    In Mar’s case, his misery is understandable because he came this close, yet failed disastrously.

    In the case of the 3 tail-enders, it’s almost funny. And absolutely ridiculous. Their entire argument is based on the premise that the KBL candidate, Acosta, got more votes than all the 3 of them combined.

    Well, in case they didn’t know, the KBL still has a following, just like there are Rizalists or followers of Ecleo. And just like there are people who believe that Marcos, and Elvis, are still alive.

    Obviously, these 3 stooges haven’t seen all aspects of our country. Besides, these 3 candidates hardly impressed anyone. Kulang yata sa pansin ang maga ‘to.

    Obviously, the elections were far from perfect. It could only have worked in the Philippines, where the people have lots of patience and are willing to bend over backward to make things work. But it was a much better election than those in the past. Let’s use it as a first step to better, more hassle-free elections in the future. Being sore losers and knocking the elections will only be counterproductive.

  16. what would be healthier, ultimately? to insist on sidelining all appeals for scrutiny, or erring on the side of transparency precisely because of general public satisfaction with the conduct of the polls?

  17. The key would be to be able to distinguish meritorious appeals from nuisance claims. Certainly, not all appeals should be sidelined.

    As for Mar Roxas, he is asking that all votes be counted before a verdict is cast. That is a reasonable request, provided it is not accompanied by claims that he will come from behind and win. Because, then, the other side will have every right to refute those claims, including airing apprehensions that plans for cheating are afoot. 🙂

  18. what is indubitabe is it’s a close election. in many other jurisdictions if a race is very close, there is an automatic recount. this is regardless of who wins and with the possibility that the announced result may be overturned.

  19. Either way, the stage will be set for a Binay v Roxas rematch in 2016. Binay the eventual heir of both the Cory and Estrada constituencies will be nearly unbeatable.

    Having given Binay the VP slot in 2010, Erap will be in a position to impose Jinggoy on Binay’s ticket. This would mean an eventual second Estrada presidency by 2022.

    Given the precedent set by the elder Binay, Binay Jr might follow his father’s footsteps into national politics. There is also the possibility of a Marcos presidency take 2. Malacanang will be the site of a riggodon performed by the same political dynasties waltzing into power until 2030 at least.

  20. Great analysis, cusp! My only comments are:

    a) While I believe that Binay has made a huge splash in the national consciousness, therefore making him someone to reckon with whether he wins or loses the Vice Presidency, I believe that Mar Roxas badly needs to win this race in order to stay in the running. Otherwise, Mar could well be finished.

    b) While Jinggoy as a potential running mate for Binay in 2016 is entirely plausible, Chiz Escudero would be a more likely choice. After all, they have been comrades as Erap supporters, original oppositionists to GMA, and key figures in the FPJ campaign. What could upset a Jojo-Chiz team-up, however, would be if Chiz were to become too ambitious and set his sights on the top prize too soon.

    The rigodon of the same political dynasties until 2030 or beyond is very perceptive. Very likely to happen, unless electoral reforms are undertaken. But, since the dynasties will be in power for years to come, deep-rooted reforms are unlikely to occur. The dynasties will make sure that they perpetuate themselves and their progeny for decades to come.

  21. Haha. You guys are obviously completely discounting a Kris Aquino. . . “ Eureka!” (If Vi can, why can’t the glibly-as-her-dad Kris?)

    And also, after Erap second presidential run set a precedent, why not a GMA take 2? Only 62 (or 63?), and potentially 4th in the line of succession, she’s far from being politically musty. (If an octo Meldy can, why can’t just a sexa Glo?)

    And don’t forget, how a son of a black Muslim from Africa came from nowhere to make history in America.

  22. Anything’s possible in a world where things move so fast and preconceived notions are quickly demolished. An Obama can rise, seemingly out of nowhere, and then, just as rapidly, be brought down to less lofty levels.

    Binay’s feat shows how fast things can change, even in the Philippines. Shakespeare’s line “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” has never been more appropriate than during these rapidly evolving times.

  23. How about the possibility of Noynoy giving Mar and important cabinet portfolio? Secretary of Finance perhaps?

    After all, if the new government will be serious about aggressive collection (or slashing and cutting or both), this position will be in the limelight for years to come. With Mar’s financial experience, it could be sellable to the public.

    But this would depend on how close Mar and Noynoy are. We must remember that theirs was a marriage of convenience, brought about by intra-party politics of two party mates vying for the presidency.

    Now that it has been settled that Mar is unpopular as fuck (therefore costing the party the presidential seat) and Noynoy is hands down the correct choice, would Noynoy feel the need to “pay the debt” to Mar or would he feel that he doesn’t need to repay “utang na loob” to Mar?

  24. As an “undecided nation”, perhaps we’ve moved on. Especially with regard to the hopelessness of our situation and the prospects of democracy.

    These elections, flawed as they were, made us feel better about ourselves and the future of our country. It has given us the hope that, with better preparation and hindsight, we can hold clean, peaceful and less divisive elections. It could be start toward a more civil, and civilized, society.

    And, as for migration to other countries, perhaps the financial problems and resulting joblessness that have rocked the U.S. and Europe the past year or so may have diminished job opportunities abroad. So that avenue may be restricted.

    However, rural poverty and internal migration will be around for time to come. So, too, will the issues of the oligarchy and family dynasties continue to beleaguer us.

    Randy David points out in today’s column in the Inquirer that, despite some trappings of modernity, we are still very much still a feudal and backward society:

    “It is time we recognized the gap between our idealized notions of ourselves and the actual functioning of our society. Unless we do, all our efforts at change will come to naught. The most crucial of these realities is the gross inequality in wealth, power and opportunity that divides our people. The ritual of voting only masks this underlying inequality. It is a delusion to think that democracy can thrive under these circumstances.

    We cannot be content with merely replacing rapacious feudal lords with benevolent ones. The point is to get rid of the feudal system itself because it is no longer adequate to the complex problems we face. That can only be done if we end the scourge of mass poverty that lies at the root of our patronage-driven political system. If President-elect Noynoy is bent on turning the country around, he cannot go wrong if he takes up the goal of releasing our people from the grip of mass poverty as his first priority.”

  25. I wonder if Manolo will consider automated election as Glorias greatest legacy? Or consider Gloria the greatest president of the country ever had becuase of eth automated election? =)

  26. carl,
    the report is inaccurate that region 7 and 6 have about a million votes combined. im living in cebu city and based on the local papers reports here, roxas got 1.05M votes while Nonoy garnered 986, 280. maybe the clincher in the vp will depend on the ARMM results. if binay got a commanding lead there, then it’s over for mar

  27. Ace, I don’t know if we’re talking about the same returns. My basis is the ABS-CBN breakdown of the votes that still have to be transmitted. Per that report, Regions VI and VII still hadn’t transmitted a combined 1 million votes. That was a few days ago, so the number of votes to be transmitted must now be lower.

    Are you referring to total votes cast in your region? If so, then most of those have already been transmitted and counted in favor of Mar Roxas. Despite that, Binay still leads by 800,000 votes.

    As each day passes, Mar’s chances are looking bleaker. ARMM votes may be important, but maybe not as crucial. Binay leads in almost all regions, save for Regions VI, VII and Caraga. While there were a considerable number of votes still not transmitted from those regions, there were much more votes still not transmitted from the other regions where Binay was leading. There is no reason to believe that the trend will reverse. If so, then it will be very suspicious. It will lend credibility to Binay’s warning that Mar and his supporters are out to cheat.

    Binay’s people have laid out the figures as to why it is statistically improbable for Mar to catch up with Binay. Their figures look very logical and credible. Yesterday, ABS-CBN made public their own forecast, based on the trends from actual returns, and it showed Binay winning by about half a percent to one percentage point of the total votes cast. It’s tight, but it means that Binay wins by about 300,000 to 400,000 votes. Mind you, this comes from an unfriendly source. Binay has taken ABS-CBN to task for being biased.

    Most surveys also show Binay winning, including ABS-CBN’s and Pulse Asia’s own exit polls.

    That is why I think that Nonong Cruz going around claiming Mar will overcome Binay’s lead and win by 200,000 votes is going to be counterproductive for Mar. Nonong Cruz is connected to the Villaraza law firm, which featured prominently in the Ramos shenanigans during the 1992 elections. Nonong Cruz stood idly by during the Garci scam. Remember, Nonong Cruz was Presidential Legal Counsel to GMA during the Garci scam. And was appointed as Secretary of National Defense in August of 2004, at the height of the controversy. He was also Acting Executive Secretary. In those important positions, he had to have a role in the cover-up. He doesn’t have clean hands, so to speak. So if he is so specific about Mar’s winning margin, it can’t be helped that the other side will accuse them of cheating. It seems the only way Mar can win.

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