Filipinos are enraged that best-selling author Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) calls Manila “the gates of hell” in his latest novel, Inferno. Reportedly he also labels the Philippine capital as site of “six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution, horrifying sex trade.” One of Inferno’s characters lands in Manila “to feed poor fishermen and farmers in the countryside.” Instead of being enchanted with “vibrant seabeds and dazzling plains,” she was appalled by the stark poverty. So traumatized was she by her experiences that “she left at once without even saying goodbye to the other members of the group.” Filipinos can’t accept that.
I don’t read Brown, knowing he only lifted for The Da Vinci Code (2003) details from the non-fiction research, Holy Blood, Holy Grail (Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, 1982). And Inferno is but his take on Dante’s epic poem Divine Comedy, the medieval world-view of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.
Still the fictionist has literary license to depict Manila as he pleases. More so since, his words ring true. That truth Filipinos do not or refuse to see. As the Tagalog saying goes, “Hindi mo makita ang sarili mong muta (You cannot see the mote in your eye).” Really in the metropolis it’s free-for-all of vehicles and pedestrians; no one pays heed to trash, clogged esteros, and filthy air; and it swarms with whorehouses, beggars, pickpockets, conmen, and racketeering cops.
Bible scholars denote “gates of hell” as “entrance to the realm of the dead.” Officials do seem dead to the brutality, grime, and bleakness of the big city. Behold the cemeteries: in there are squatters with colorum electricity connection, thieves of tombstones and jewelry of the buried, and long lines for free water.
It was pouring in the afternoon of President Fidel Ramos’s first State of the Nation in 1992. And because of the traffic, floods, litter, spotty weather forecasting, and police street invisibility, he had to chopper from his southern Alabang home to the Batasan in the north. His opening line to the gathered lawmakers, justices, agency heads, and Metro Manila officials was, “Living in the city is hell!” Has it changed 21 years hence?
Yes, for the worse. Roads are ruttier than ever; if any re-concreting is going on at all, it’s only to derive kickbacks. The air and sidewalks are stinkier. Crime and destitution, politicking and neglect thrive.
Mayors fret that Brown’s depiction will turn away tourists. Yet what can be bigger turnoffs than extortionate airport cabbies, and cops who flag down supposedly overloaded vans, and street gangs the “clean” the windshields of traffic-snarled vehicles?
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For coming to the same conclusion that the 2013 poll automation was faulty, election watchdogs must beware. They’re conspiring against him, Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes snarls. And because they made work difficult for him, he will expose their orchestrator, starting with the AES (Automated Election Systems) Watch.
It’s intriguing, what Brillantes will growl about the professional and religious groups, NGOs, and persons listed in AES-Watch’s stationery, among them:
• U.P. Alumni Association; National Secretariat for Social Action-Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; Bishops Broderick Pabillo and Deogracias Iñiguez; Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines; Ecumenical Bishops Forum; National Council of Churches of the Philippines;
• Dr. Rachel Roxas-Uy, dean, De La Salle University-College of Computer Science; Dr. Reena Estuar, chair, Ateneo de Manila University-Department of Information Communications Systems; Dr. Jaime Caro, chair, U.P. Department of Computer Science; Engr. Jun Lozada; CAUCUS-Philippine Computer Society; Computer Professionals Union; National Union of Students of the Philippines; Transparent Elections.org; Concerned Citizens Movement; Association of Schools of Public Administration; Computing Society of the Philippines; Transparency International-Phils.; Pagbabago (Movement for Social Change);
• Last but not least, former Vice President and senatorial-father Teofisto Guingona Jr.
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Sic ‘em, Sixto. But before that, fulfill the provisos of the Automated Election Law of 2008.
He has yet to explain:
• Where’s the Random Manual Audit that should have been done in three to five hours upon end of balloting last May 13? The RMA would check if the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machines tallied the ballots right. It was to be done in one precinct in each of the 234 legislative districts, down from Election 2010’s five (total: 1,170, never finished). Brillantes had rigged the RMA this Election 2013, removing the randomness and element of surprise by selecting and announcing the precincts way before Election Day. Even then, no results?
• Why 18,499 PCOS units – with over eight million votes, 23.7 percent of the turnout – did not transmit results to the Comelec central server? He must prove from field reports and logbooks, not mere press allegations, that weak telco signals were at fault, not internal PCOS and compact-flash (CF) cards – or worse, manipulation of votes.
• When will Comelec allow the unimpeded review of the PCOS source code by political parties and info-technologists? He insists that critics, including former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, do not know and so misunderstand the source code. But it’s his fault that he produced it only three days before Election Day, instead of three months as required by law.
• Why he discarded the electronic signatures of the Boards of Election Inspectors in generating the precinct election returns (ERs)? The signatures, or personal passwords, were the proof that the transmitted ERs were genuine, and not mere concoctions of Smartmatic techs.
• Why did he allow Smartmatic’s overpriced warehousing charge (P400 million a year for three years, instead of the officially set P112 million), and no-bidding contracts for low-end CF cards and modems? He cannot dismiss such question by invoking legal brilliance; he was defeated in the Supreme Court at least eight times since February.
• Why would it take him ten days, starting last week, to proclaim 58 party-list winners, when only half of voters picked any one of them? All that, amid reports that victories could be bought for P50 million.
Failure to answer these questions means Brillantes, not his critics, is the election saboteur.
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