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Opinion

The elections aren’t over yet. Stay woke!

POSTSCRIPT - Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

Yes, today is the day after Election Day (May 9) when a good number of some 67.5 million eligible Filipinos came out to vote for a new president and an assortment of other officials.

But, no, the elections are not over yet. The votes cast in more than 100,000 clustered precincts nationwide are still being processed, with the final scores for the president still to be tallied by computers that had been programmed and operated by the usual human hands.

Meantime, everybody must stay wide awake and watchful – for how long we can’t say – as we can only imagine how the now-invisible ballots fed into the Vote Counting Machines are processed in an automated system managed by the Commission on Elections.

After the 2016 elections, it took the Supreme Court more than five years to decide with finality who between Leni Robredo and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. received more votes and got elected vice president of the Republic. Robredo won over Marcos’ protests.

The same protagonists are again headed for a showdown, this time for the presidency, no less. We hope it will be their last duel – at some point in a moral clash, evil must lose.

Reports are rife, meanwhile, of what looks like organized confusion at the polling precincts. A frequent ploy is to make a VCM malfunction. The problem becomes the reason/excuse to ask voters to leave their filled-out ballots with the staff to feed them into the VCM once it is replaced or fixed.

Some voters who are too trusting or who cannot wait leave their ballots (with voting circles already shaded). The ballot’s first line, which is for the president, is readily spotted when not fully covered by a “secrecy folder.”

Ballots left by voters that are then seen by partisans in the precinct as marked for an opposing presidential candidate could be trashed, smudged or damaged so the VCM would reject them.

The use of malfunctioning VCMs is a new cheating technique that takes advantage of the heavy turnout of voters, the poor quality of the voting machines and the endemic corruption in these parts.

The failure of many VCMs, real or contrived, has contributed to long lines of voters waiting in the sweltering heat. But many voters say they don’t mind waiting if clean and honest elections would rid the country of inept and corrupt officials.

Another rampant practice widely reported over the last two days is vote-buying. It’s an old trick to use on voters: if you find it hard to convince or coerce them, buy them. Anyway, there are more of those crisp bills from the hidden billions.

Videos of cash being slipped to voters have been captured by devices and uploaded on social media, but the Comelec does not seem inclined to crack down on the crooks.

Has the very agency mandated to ensure clean elections become a party to the subverting of the democratic process?

• I went missing last Sunday

Some readers were surprised to find me absent from this op-ed space last Sunday. We owe them an explanation.

I submitted my column last Saturday at 4:20 pm, a bit later than usual. The 920-word article carried the head “Tara na, let’s vote for President Leni!”

Its opening paragraphs read: “For the first time in my half-century of journalism, I am disclosing in an advance article who will get my vote for president in a national election. Tomorrow, May 9, I’m voting for Leni Robredo.”

I proceeded to explain my vote:

“I chose Robredo, 57, after critically comparing her personality, performance, and potential with that of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64, who has been reported leading in random surveys yet showing less drawing power in campaign rallies despite his far superior resources.

“Since I joined mainstream media in 1964, I have refrained from disclosing or even giving just a hint of my choice for president during an election season. I had been one of those who believe that stories should not be colored by the political biases or personal preferences of the authors.

“I’m now breaking that self-imposed rule because I am alarmed at how many people seem to have been brainwashed over time into welcoming the return of the late dictator in the person of his son and namesake who is running for president.”

While making a quick check on Twitter before taking a nap, which I usually do after filing my “Postscript,” I came across several items on a supposed rule banning campaigning for candidates after May 7 (Saturday).

Since my head invites readers “Tara na” (Let’s go) and vote for Robredo, and since I said in the body of the column that she is the most qualified for the presidency, I had second thoughts about me sounding like campaigning for her.

I withdrew my column and asked our Opinion editor to give me time to rewrite it to conform with the Comelec rule against campaigning after May 7. But with time ticking away, I did not attempt anymore to write a substitute piece.

Later that evening, I came across an ABS-CBN “TeleRadyo Balita” item on Comelec Commissioner George Garcia clarifying that the anti-campaigning rule applies only to candidates and political parties, and not to their supporters.

That clarification of Garcia exempted me, I thought, but it was by then too late to disturb the paper’s editorial workflow to ask for a reinstatement of my column.

What I did was to change the head to a “safer” one saying “Let’s all come out to vote tomorrow!” I then posted it on my ManilaMail.com website. Those interested can read it at: tinyurl.com/3xmxrsjk

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NB: All Postscripts are also archived at ManilaMail.com. Author is on Twitter as @FDPascual. Email: [email protected]

ELECTIONS

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