Philippine elections: the national is local

Voters in Region 8 exercise their most sacred right to vote for candidates of their choice. (PIA-8 photo by Vino Cuayzon)
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“PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS,” says the British publication The Economist, “are always local and thuggish.” 

The “thuggish”  part every Filipino is, or should be,  familiar with. That’s the “guns and goons” in the “guns, goons, and gold” equation that too often decides the outcome of elections in those places where the police are either too weak to prevent voters from being intimidated, or are themselves among the thugs  in the pay of the local warlord.  These are the hoods responsible for the violence that characterizes most Philippine elections (but which the police always describe as “orderly and peaceful”). At least vote-buying, or the “gold” part that comes in both cash and kind, helps redistribute, rather than death and injury, the wealth that’s been stolen from the people.

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Two elections

US President Obama voting (White House Photo)
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AS ANNOUNCED by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the official election season began last January 10 and will end on June 8 this year. It includes a campaign period starting February and ending in May; election day itself on May 9; the counting of the ballots; and the official proclamation of the winning presidential and vice presidential candidates and their inauguration.

Some cynical souls lament that the results of the triennial exercise—the election of the same scoundrels, incompetents, crooks and clowns and/or their clones—do not justify the 150 days allocated for it. But the unofficial period for campaigning for office is actually far longer, in many cases consisting of the entire three years between congressional and local government elections, and, for the presidential election, the six years during which the previously elected president sits in Malacañang.

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Elections, information, and governance

Ballot box
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IT’S that time again, the filing of certificates of candidacy that’s the prelude to the months-long extravaganza cum freak show that we call elections.

Thanks to the media focus on who’s running for such national offices as the Presidency, the Vice Presidency and the Senate, an observer unfamiliar with the Philippine system can’t be blamed if he or she were to conclude that Philippine elections have nothing to do with community issues.

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Changing the political culture—by campaigning early?

President Noynoy Aquino endorses Mar Roxas
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LIBERAL PARTY (LP) Secretary General Mel Senen Sarmiento says that the LP will run a “positive campaign” to elect Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II to the Presidency.

“It’s just sad that some people are using name-calling and foul personal attacks to bring down their perceived political rivals,” Congressman Sarmiento said. “We at the LP are not only committed to reform the old and corrupt system of governance, we are (also) working hard to change our prevailing political culture.”

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Coming soon, the circus that never left town

Ballot box
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WILL Vice President Jejomar Binay still run for President in 2016 despite his falling approval and preference numbers? Who will be his running mate, if ever? Wily tactician that he is, Binay’s thinking of getting Senator Grace Poe, who’s been rising in the surveys as the electorate’s second most preferred candidate for President.

If Poe runs as Binay’s vice-presidential candidate, that will surely assure him victory next year, despite the devastating impact on his popularity of the many allegations of wrongdoing that’s being dredged up in the Senate practically every week, which include his supposedly taking kickbacks in the construction of the Makati City Hall building, his unexplained wealth and possessions, and even his family’s interests in the company that makes the cakes that Makati presents to senior citizens during their birthdays.

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Conspiracies

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COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. thinks there’s a conspiracy afoot to discredit the Philippine electoral system. He’s identified the supposed conspirators as “those behind” the Automated Election System (AES) Watch, a coalition that has about 40 organizations and individuals as members, among them academics, non-government organizations and information technology (IT) experts.

In one more demonstration of the truth that you can’t be too good in doing your job in this country without being damned for it, Brillantes was in effect blaming AES Watch for being too systematic and too focused in its criticism of Comelec and the system over which it presides. He’s particularly piqued by the AES Watch claim that the Comelec’s conduct of the 2013 mid-term elections was even worse than its problem-plagued management of the 2010 Presidential elections. So annoyed was Brillantes that at one point he even threatened to sue Comelec critics, among them, probably especially, AES Watch.

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The eternal “only”

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ANOTHER event that in this country comes almost as often as its fun-filled fiestas is over, and everyone’s happy – or at least appears to be, except those few, pesky critics of the way things are done in this earthly paradise. The Commission on Elections is happy. Malacanang is happy. The Philippine National Police is happy. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is happy. The winning candidates are happy. Even the voters are happy.

The elections were “successfully held,” says the Comelec — and what election in the Philippines isn’t, and when was the last time anyone said otherwise? “Only” 200 to 300 of its 78,000 plus Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines hiccupped, rejecting ballots being fed into them, or even refusing to turn on, in some instances requiring the use of the latest high-tech Comelec device — e.g., broom handles — to fix, in others being consigned to wherever and whatever technological junk pile the Comelec has designated in advance (they knew some of them would fail; that’s why they bought them — which makes sense in the Comelec parallel universe).

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