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So he finally admitted it. The number of precinct count optical scan machines that had experienced transmission problems, said Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. last Thursday, wasn’t in the hundreds but in the thousands—18,000, or 24-25 percent of the around 78,000 machines deployed in the midterm elections.
At the rites marking the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Navy, President Aquino announced a P75-billion upgrade for the service. It is a necessary investment, but hardly sufficient. In terms both absolute (number of ships in service) and relative (in proportion to the size of the archipelago), the Navy is the weakest in the region. But at least the country’s naval force seems to have finally sailed out of the doldrums of fiscal and strategic neglect.
The idea that Charter change is the key to unlocking the Philippines’ full potential, or to solving many of its most intractable problems, is a powerful one; it recurs every now and then, precisely because of the simplicity of its appeal. But it is a false simplicity. Charter change as many in the political class define it will prove to be difficult and complicated—and it may create more problems than it may solve.
Alfred McCoy’s classic description of Philippine politics—as “an anarchy of families”—was coined in the early 1990s, but two decades later it’s even more apt and true. The results of the 2013 midterm polls have only confirmed that, while guns, goons and gold continue to play a huge part in how this country elects its leaders, a fourth element—bloodline—has the strongest grip of all on the system.
For the past five years, the Philippines has dodged the recession plaguing the developed world mainly because of the billions of dollars sent home by some 10 million Filipinos living or working abroad. But the picture is no longer that rosy. Last week, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that in March, remittances from overseas Filipinos grew at their slowest pace in nearly four years.
The unpopular president of Taiwan (approval ratings below 20 percent) has found a populist cause to die for—or, rather, to unleash baseball bat-wielding mobs for. The shooting of a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard last May 9, in waters the Philippines claims as its own but which Taiwan describes as within “overlapping” exclusive economic zones, has provided Ma Ying-jeou with an excuse to break his reputation for indecisive leadership, and to rally the Taiwanese under a nationalist cause not involving mainland China.
With the K to 12 Enhanced Basic Education Act now a law, it’s time to focus on action. No more excuses. As the so-called centerpiece of President Aquino’s administration, K to 12 must now live up to its promise of reforming basic education from the ground up.
The correct phrase is “bite the bullet.” But perhaps to underline her point that rampant vote-buying during Philippine elections is a direct result of the poverty afflicting the populace, especially in the countryside, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting chair Henrietta de Villa employed a novel turn of phrase to describe the phenomenon: “Because of poverty, they are forced to buy the bullet.”
After a blazing start on Monday night, the unofficial count managed by the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting has slowed to a crawl. The official tally maintained by the Commission on Elections itself, which began the day after the elections, has been even slower. After the excitement over the speed by which election results were being reported right on Monday night, we are back on much more familiar territory: the slow count, vulnerable to manipulation and fraud.
We do not have to look far to find sources of hope, inspiring stories of unexpected or eagerly anticipated election victories, from the May 13 vote. But the setbacks are real, too, and threaten to undo or undermine many of these same victories.
The counting isn’t over, but this much we know now of the 2013 midterm elections: We didn’t know that much.
Last Wednesday, as if on cue, five or six power plants in Luzon stopped generating electricity, plunging the island back to the “dark ages.” And yesterday (Monday), the midterm elections were marred by outages in Batangas and parts of Laguna, reportedly due to a transformer malfunction.