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Philippines
Sunday, May 19, 2024

Fixing our politics

"We need to fix our electoral system and culture, the hardware and software of our political life."

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(Part 1)

The midterm election’s results saw the overwhelming victory of Duterte-endorsed senatorial candidates. Based on the unofficial count, not one in the opposition won. However, the real winner here is Duterte, and by extension, China.

The loss of the opposition means a lot more than these candidates’ individual losses. This is really about the country’s sovereignty, democracy, and Filipinos’ human rights. To be more precise, Philippine democracy and sovereignty are in peril, and our human rights are more vulnerable to repression.

Duterte managed to have a supermajority in the Senate and only fools will believe assurances that the likes of Bong Go, Bato Dela Rosa, Bong Revilla, and Imee Marcos will say no to Duterte. I do not remember another time since EDSA1 when Malacañang could possibly order the Senate around.

This early, Senator Sotto has already confidently announced that the bill on lowering the age of criminal liability will be passed before the 17th Congress ends, and the death penalty, in the next Congress. These are two of Duterte’s pet bills that if passed, will result in further violations of human rights.

I suspect that the drive for Charter Change and federalism will go full steam starting late this year or early next year owing to the needed reorganization of both Houses of Congress. They will not wait until Duterte’s last year because a sitting President becomes weakest during his/her term. By mid-2021, those with ambition to run in 2022 will all be busy preparing for their candidacies and will likely distance themselves from contentious issues like Charter Change. 

China will benefit from the results of the elections because of the absence of a strong opposition in the Senate. Senators Drilon, Pangilinan, Hontiveros, and De Lima will not be able to block Duterte’s partiality to China at the expense of our sovereignty. Thus, expect more of our territories occupied, and our natural resources stolen right under our very noses.

Bato and Go in the Senate means that the war on drugs will continue to kill innocent people. After all, Bato as PNP Chief was Duterte’s executioner, and Go was an enabler. The PNP now has a champion in the Senate and this may embolden the police further in killing suspected drug pushers and users. I also do not see anything happening in relation with the revelations of “Bikoy”. Like the whistleblowers who came before him, he will remain in hiding if not arrested and jailed.

There are important lessons to be learned from the last electoral exercise and unless we put them to good use, the succeeding elections (if there will be) will result in more of the same. 

Many are frustrated and angry and this is understandable. However, we can use the anger to strengthen the struggle to protect our democracy, sovereignty, and human rights. 

The fight is not over. As we continue to oppose this administration’s maneuvers to destroy our democracy, undermine our sovereignty, and violate human rights, we should also be working for long-term solutions to our problems.

In the end, we can rise above these challenges and emerge as a mature, responsible, patriotic, and freedom-loving people. This will take time but let our love for country unite, not further divide us. 

Most important for now is to make COMELEC accountable. The results of the elections should be credible. There are already calls to postpone the proclamation of winners at the national level because of doubts that cheating could have happened. By far, this is the worst election of the four computerized elections that have happened.

The seven-hour time lapse in the release of results because of glitches in COMELEC’s transparency server and the reverting of results from 93 percent to 40+percent in the early morning of May 14 must be thoroughly explained. 

There were numerous reports of vote buying and some arrests were made at the local level. Allegations of pre-shaded ballots abound. At the national level, there were numerous reports of voters whose receipts contained the names of either Bong Go or Bato dela Rosa despite NOT having voted for them. A video allegedly of the actual pre-shading of ballots in Lanao del Sur has gone viral. Lately, a picture of someone also pre-shading ballots has been going around social media. All these should be subjected to an independent investigation. Was there cheating in favor of these two major Duterte allies to ensure their victory?

Defective Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) and SD cards, bleeding markers as well as shortage of these markers, created delays during election day.

COMELEC has ONE job, and that is to ensure that we have clean and honest elections but many problems that created doubts on the results, especially at the national level. Unless an impartial investigation is done, it will be hard to believe that there was no foul play. This is most important because people need to feel confident that their most sacred right to suffrage has not been violated.  

In the long term, we need to fix our electoral system and culture, the hardware and software of our political life. The problems are systemic and there are no quick fixes. (More next week)

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

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