(unpublished column)

Forty percent of Filipinos, says an SWS survey commissioned by the opposition, believe that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will cheat in behalf of her candidates this May. Twenty percent don’t think so, but another 35 percent aren’t sure–which means that they’re entertaining the possibility that she would. Together with the conviction among some 60 to 70 percent of Filipinos that Mrs. Arroyo should either resign or be ousted from office, these figures look like a record among all the people who have occupied Malacanang since 1946.

The belief that the regime will cheat is rampant among Filipinos. The SWS survey merely confirms the validity of anecdotal evidence culled from conversations with taxi drivers, students, and fishwives. It is based on Mrs. Arroyo’s basement level credibility, which is itself based on what the public knows about the 2004 elections.

The same SWS survey found that 86 percent of the public are aware of the “Hello Garci” scandal, in which someone who sounded very much like Mrs. Arroyo was caught talking by cell phone to former Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to make sure that she would win by a million votes.

Mrs. Arroyo also has an added distinction among those who have had the luck, skill or gall to reside in Malacanang. She is notably lacking in what is politely called “charisma”. Many Filipinos–say 60 percent?–simply dislike her because they sense an insincerity and a calculation in every word she utters, the way they sense the same insincerity in anyone who’s trying to sell them damaged goods. In another culture Mrs. Arroyo wouldn’t win an election for dog-catcher, let alone for president.

If Mrs. Arroyo is not popular, what she is, say her detractors, is manipulative. She is so good at making things happen behind closed doors and under the table that she can’t help but do what she’s good at, and what that is, is to cheat.

That she and the cabal of cretins and crooks she heads will cheat thus appears to be a foregone conclusion. But the really important question is why. The easy answer is to remain in power, which by itself may explain many things, but may not explain all.

The perception that Mrs. Arroyo and company will cheat–or otherwise do anything else that will assure regime dominance in both the local as well as senatorial elections–is reinforced not only by the brazen lawlessness of the acts of its crew of operators and hatchetmen, but even by their own shameless statements.

Everyone knows by now Raul Gonzalez’ declaration that he would pay each barangay captain P10,000 to deliver a 12–zero sweep of regime senatorial candidates in their respective communities. At least two Commission on Elections lawyers are suspected to be behind the selling of party-list accreditations cum victory to help assure regime dominance in the House of Representatives. In addition, among the party-list groups already accredited by the Comelec are those organized by the relatives of regime politicians, and even one headed by the brother of Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos.

The campaign to completely transform the party list elections into one more trapo (traditional politician) domain includes the systematic effort not only to demonize Bayan Muna and its allied organizations but also to decimate their ranks through assassinations, in the fine arts of which the Philippine military is more than adept.

In fact the military, if it has been anything at all, has been busy, busy, busy these elections not only in campaigning against Bayan Muna and company, but also in urging voters to vote for the regime’s own party list groups. The military has also decided, after fielding troops in metro Manila, to deploy 200 more soldiers in the capital and, in what must surely be the most outrageous joke of the decade, to conduct a “voter education campaign” with the connivance of the Commission on Elections, and the naïve and muddle-headed approval and involvement of the Catholic Church’s Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).

While all this and more do indicate a focused determination to prevail in the elections through whatever means, they also suggest something even more sinister.

The sheer arrogance and total absence of any scruple in the regime initiatives for fraud, manipulation, vote-buying and terrorism in these elections suggest plans beyond fraud to include the outright provocation of unrest.

These plans are likely to be an already laid-out scheme on how to deal with the protests that–thanks to its own brazenness–will surely follow such an electoral atrocity as, say, a 12 to zero regime win in the Senate, and regime dominance in the House of Representatives at the expense of opposition and militant party list groups.

The deployment of troops in Manila would be indispensable to that plan, which would consist of dispersing protest, arresting protest and opposition leaders, and justifying a level of repression beyond February 2006 in the chaos that would follow.

Electoral fraud at levels comparable to 2004, in short, would trigger precisely the kind of protest the regime would welcome and is likely to be anticipating even now, because it would provide the excuse for total repression–with, of course, considerable help from the misnamed Human Security (Anti-Terrorism) Act. In another Marcosian slip, Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane in fact declared some weeks ago that the military would intensify its “anti-terrorism” campaign after the elections.

There is thus more to these elections than the growing probability of fraud by a fraudulent regime. What the elections are turning out to be is the prelude to the total restoration of authoritarian rule to ensure regime survival and dominance.

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *