Who won the last elections?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

The festering issue of the canvassing manipulation and cheating in the 2022 election has been in social media, the inside pages of the main media, and broadcast media. Recently it made it into the main news in The Philippine STAR column of Bondoc, and Commission on Elections Chairman Garcia replied to the accusations. Above the suspicion of the unusual speed of the transmission of the canvassing of the votes on election day is the more serious discovery that the transmissions to the central server of the Comelec came from one IP address. These accusations were made by former DICT commissioner Rio Franklin Isaac and other IT experts and this information came from Comelec insiders.

There are reasons why this issue won’t easily die down. Months before the 2022 elections, rumors and anecdotal evidence from reliable persons spread that the election was over and the winners had been pre-determined. Even with the resurgent campaign of the Robredo camp and large crowds that attended the rallies, the betting odds were so lopsided at 4 to 1, which means that a ?1 bet on Robredo will win ?4. Gamblers would opine you would have to have the inside track to be pretty sure about these odds. Rumors were also abound that some local congressional, gubernatorial, and mayoralty candidates paid election manipulators to ensure their victory. While this nothing new in Philippine elections, the selling point of the manipulators was the certainty and assurance via the hack on the Comelec IT system.

A certain level of election manipulation happens in all countries, with a greater degree happening in young democracies in developing countries. This is due to the limited middle class and the refusal of previous autocratic politicians to lose power even as they have to give a semblance of democracy. The recent election in Cambodia where Hun Sen got 90% of the votes by declaring other parties illegal/candidates ineligible, and rigging the counting assured him as prime minister for the nth time. Then, he announces after the election that he will retire soon and make his son Hun Manet his successor as prime minister. In recent years, this has also happened in Sri Lanka, more extremely in Myanmar, and varying degrees in other developing countries. So they have simmering rebellions in these countries, civil wars in Sudan, Niger, Haiti, and other countries, sliding them to economic chaos and becoming failed states/countries.

After the pandemic, the ongoing geo-political confrontations, and the tumultuous term of Duterte, the Philippines is again at a crossroads. The apparent stability as a democratic country since the end of martial law years has been unraveling. Populism abetted by family political dynasties have weakened socio-political institutions like supposedly independent commissions like the Comelec, the courts, and other independent bodies. These erosions will weaken these institutions and people will eventually lose faith in the government and the political system. The succeeding downward slide will be of the economy and eventually the breakdown of society.

This election counting/canvassing controversy should be resolved. While Comelec Chairman Garcia said there is nothing illegal with the use of one IP address for the 20,300 modems that were used to transmit election results, there was no assurance that no interceptions/distortions happened before it reached that one IP address. To resolve the suspicion that the “transmission logs show that most of the election results received by the transparency servers were pre-loaded by a secret gateway with IP address192.168.02”, the Comelec just has to provide the requested information by Rio and company and to the public.

As to who won in the 2022 elections, with the unresolved questions and the known maneuverings of our politicians, we may never know. But for sure it will be the country and Filipino people who will be the losers if we do not correct and make credible the results of our elections.

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