At Large

Two old machos

/ 05:07 AM September 12, 2018

It’s obvious who the real audience is of yesterday’s “tête-à-tête” between the President and his legal counsel Salvador Panelo. Ongoing as this is being written, it still isn’t clear what the point of the entire exercise was. But given the format selected, it seems to have been directed at an audience beyond the Philippines.

Malacañang obviously wanted entire control over the so-called exchange of views, fencing out even accredited media, and controlling both the content and conduct of this information sharing.


This does a disservice to the Filipino public, at least, as represented by legitimate media. What is PDuts so afraid of? Before going on the air, the President and his official family was swamped by an aura of defeat and discouragement, with many analysts virtually writing off the Duterte administration’s future. Was the exchange meant to delay the hour of reckoning?

Pathetic indeed was the sight of the two aging machos mouthing a prepared script, underscoring old points and deluding themselves that what they said still matters.

While lunching with Smartmatic executives led by vice president for Global Services Elie Moreno and country president Jane Coo, the group launched into a collective stroll down elections past.

Foremost of the events recalled were incidents that took place during the contentious “snap elections” that the late dictator Marcos called to get critics off his back. Alan German recalled a confrontation between his father, veteran public relations professional and activist (and singer on the side) Reli, that resulted in a scuffle that ended up giving Reli a broken arm. Afterwards, recalled Alan, his dad had the time of his life parading around town with his “cast of thousands.”

I remembered another incident recalled by a Namfrel volunteer who embraced a ballot box when the lights went out in the precinct he was monitoring. In total darkness, he heard scuffling and banging and felt someone hit his back. When the lights came on, the volunteer found to his surprise that the back of his T-shirt had been stuffed with ballots, with the perpetrator perhaps thinking he was the ballot box itself.

But Moreno was most astonished at stories of how cheating was carried out in the bad old days. He’d heard of the chalk used to record each vote being cut in the middle of the head so that it would double every vote for selected candidates. The cheating tactic he was most astonished to hear about, though, was that of inserting a ballot that had been filled up beforehand into a sandwich distributed to each voter, who would then drop the “fake” ballots into the ballot boxes.

One would think the Filipino electorate had put those bad old days behind them. Even as the tales of voting chicanery were being shared with much laughter and glee, there was a little voice inside my head thanking fate that such shenanigans were no longer taking place. Or was this voice talking too soon?

Save for some electoral protests, the 2016 elections are generally deemed to have been fraud-free. Gone were the days when the entire country was on tenterhooks as we awaited the results of the polls for days on end. These days, we have become “spoiled” and insist on knowing the results a day or two after the polling, which “quick counts” have helped push earlier and earlier.

Of the electoral protests still in play, the most prominent has been the case filed with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal by former senator Bongbong Marcos. It’s a mystery how cheating was carried out for just one position, for if cheating was indeed planned and carried out for those polls, why focus on the vice presidency, which in the scheme of things doesn’t hold much power except when the President falls ill or dies?


Smartmatic, because it provided the machines and personnel in 2016, has been implicated in this accusation of cheating. But as its officers insisted, the presidential elections and its results have been accepted and deemed credible overall. Looks like there are other ends beyond questioning the counting and canvassing of ballots. What these are, we have yet to see.

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TAGS: At Large, Duterte-Panelo talk, Rina Jimenez-David, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo
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