By ATTY. GREGORIO LARRAZABAL
There’s no gainsaying that elections are fundamental to democracy, especially in our case when everything about politics and governance depends so much on it. Most especially at this time when the country’s politics has become polarizing, the credibility of the midterm elections is literally crucial.
We must recall why automated elections were introduced in 2010. It’s the single most notable legacy of the Arroyo administration after a tumultuous period in the history of our politics and elections. Allegations of fraud mired her election in 2004, which undermined her presidency. The allegations were so serious that a number of her cabinet members saw it as an opportunity to withdraw support. Perhaps the thinking then was that she would not be able to finish her term. This demonstrates how significant elections are to the country’s democracy.
If there are politicians who would declare now that they didn’t lose but were robbed of their votes and victory, there are a lot more who would say the same before elections were automated. It would take weeks before the result of national elections could be determined. The counting of votes would always have reports of ballot boxes snatching and tampering, “flying” voters, violence, and of course the age-old practice of vote-buying. Before automated elections, there were simply so many ways and opportunities for fraud.
Many of today’s voters would find it difficult to imagine elections this way. Since 2010, in about two hours the results of local elections would already be known. It takes only days, more or less a week, to determine who wins in national elections. Election fraud would be more of vote buying, of preventing voters to get to the precinct, but there are now less and less of reports of ballot box snatching, ballot tampering. Recent reports of pre-shaded ballots may be feasible for example, but just like having to tamper with transmission of votes or any step in the whole automated process, it will take an elaborate scheme to pull it through.
Still, there are those who would still insist on voter fraud. This is but expected considering the very polarized politics that has now ensued. There have always been allegations of fraud in almost every election, but it has never been as acrimonious as it is now. Safeguarding the integrity of the elections is fundamental but it has never been as crucial.
The Comelec, especially its officers, without doubt would know the significance of this election. Considerable diligence is but expected as any elections should but this particular election required an extra mile. The President and his government remain very popular as recent surveys suggest, but at the same time remain very controversial. The unorthodox style of the President, the bloodstained war against drugs, and chronic misogynist remarks have generated bitter criticisms from the opposition. The least that the country needs right now is an election that is questionable. In the first place, with the unprecedented popularity, there is no reason for the administration to influence the results of the elections, sacrificing its integrity.
There has to be an explanation why this midterm election is a notch under previous elections, what with the reports of problems with the ballot and breakdown of VCMs, defective data cards, mis-steps and delays in the preparations. On top of these there was an unprecedented delay in the canvassing of votes, even made worse by the silence of Comelec officials. Without any acceptable, and detailed explanation, the acrimonious politics we now can only be worst.
In the next few weeks we’ll dissect and discuss not only the just-conducted midterm elections, but also the fast-approaching 2022 presidential elections.