‘Bilang Pilipino’
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 15, 2019 - 12:00am

For the past two days, we had our own “Bilang Pilipino” 2019 at OneNews Phl coverage of the events that transpired during our mid-term elections held all over our country. It put together the resources and workforces of The Philippine STAR/Ang Pilipino Star Ngayon; BusinessWorld, TV-5/Radyo Singko; the Bloomberg and Cignal Cable Channel.

We feel proud of the subliminal message of our election logo “Bilang Pilipino” 2019. The word “bilang” in Tagalog could mean two things, if pronounced with the respective stress on this two-syllable word.

If pronounced slowly, with the stress on the first syllable, “Bilang Pilipino,” it would mean “as,” or “being” a Filipino. If the second syllable is pronounced with prolonged stress, “Bilang Pilipino” would mean number or to count. 

In both meanings, however, it aptly captured our national sentiments when we cast our votes in last Monday’s national and local elections.

We’re indeed elated and proud there is no reported single case of political killing during the entire day last Monday, May 13, 12 hours of which – or half of the day – were spent for voting period allotted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). That is, at least as of press time yesterday, it was still zero election-day related deaths.

This is not at all saying our politicians have suddenly become saints or angels because the election day was not marred by any violent incidents. Not at all. Definitely, the so-called 3 “Gs” that stood for guns, goons and gold, still prevailed in the fiercely contested elections in traditionally “hot spot” areas in our country, a number of them in Mindanao.

Police authorities recorded only 64 violent incidents related to Monday’s elections in the provinces of Mindanao, much lower than the figures logged during the 2016 presidential election.

According to the official record of the Philippine National Police (PNP), 20 individuals have been killed in 43 election related violent incidents, or called ERVIs for short, since the election period started last Jan. 13. But on election day itself, there was not one case of death recorded. Compared to the 2016 presidential elections, three people were killed on election day itself.

Actually, there was one fatality from a shooting incident that took place last Monday in Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur. But police investigators found no indications that it was election-related. The victim, Lailanie Batara was gunned down by armed men along the national highway in Barangay Pantar around 11 a.m. except that it happened on election day.

In fact, PNP Director-General Oscar Albayalde reported yesterday there was a 60 percent decrease in the number of ERVIs in this year’s mid-term polls from 43 compared to 106 cases compared to 2016. On the number of victims, this went down by 62 percent, or from 192 victims in 2016 to 73 this year.

While there were a number of identified election areas of concern in Mindanao, the continuing martial law there proved to be strong deterrent to lawless groups wanting to disrupt the election process, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig Gen. Edgard Arevalo noted. Arevalo credited much the citizens for their vigilance against potential troublemakers that helped the peace and order tasks of both the AFP and PNP as Comelec-deputized agencies during the election period.

Sadly, a tone of a sore loser pointed to the martial law in Mindanao as a factor why perhaps the Otso Diretso opposition senatorial candidates lost in Mindanao. Interviewed yesterday at “Bilang Pilipino” program at OneNews Ph, Barry Gutierrez, a volunteer spokesman of the Otso Diretso, failed though to connect the martial law in Mindanao to the sorry defeat of their entire eight senatorial bets in that part of the Philippines.

But the reported ERVIs in Mindanao were the best indication that even martial law failed to prevent peace and order problems during the election period. Certainly, no amount of preparations and efforts could stop determined culprits to carry out their nefarious terror plots. There have been incidents of explosions that injured some people, fortunately it was not fatal to the victims. The AFP and the PNP pointed to scare tactics as possible motives behind the separate incidents of grenade-throwing and explosions in Maguindanao and in Cotabato City as well as those in Datu Odin Sinsuat last Monday.

A Mindanaon himself, Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas gladly noted the elections proceeded in these areas. Conducting the first press conference when they convened as a national canvassing board a few hours after last Monday’s elections, Abas was visibly elated that the entire election processes were held and completed nationwide. There was no failure of elections reported to the seven-man poll body.

With very few and isolated incidents of violence, there were, however, noticeably greater number of cases of vote buying involving huge amounts of money that flowed on election day. Normally, with more money in the system should mean greater spending power for the people. But there is a backlash on the entire economy in terms of controlling its inflationary impact. This is assuming the money flow involved genuine Philippine peso bills and not “fake” or bogus printed money.

Given the generally peaceful staging of the elections during his watch as PNP chief, Albayalde was asked yesterday by Camp Crame reporters if he plans to follow in the footsteps of his immediate predecessor, former PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. Another retired police official, former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director Benjamin Magalong, was officially proclaimed yesterday as incoming mayor of Baguio City.

“I have no intention to run as a politician come 2022 (elections),” Albayalde quickly retorted. Albayalde, retiring on Nov. 8, swears he has no political ambition.

Bato remains in the top of the “Magic 12” winning circle in the just concluded Senate race topped by re-electionist Senator Cynthia Villar. Oops, it’s going ahead of the “Bilang Pilipino” 2022.

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