Black swan or death march?
All eyes are on the candidates as the election campaigns become high-pitched and emotional. But who is keeping an eye on the umpire and scorekeeper?
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has received a lot of attention over the past few months since former commissioner Rowena Guanzon called attention to what she considered undue delay in the release of the First Division’s decision on the petition to disqualify Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for having been convicted for a crime that carried the penalty of being barred from running for public office. She had accused Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, who was assigned to write the ruling on the petition, of trying to disregard her vote against Marcos Jr. by coming out with a favorable resolution only after Guanzon was retired.
There had been problems besetting the Comelec including allegations that its computers had been hacked, and that the data of voters has been compromised. The National Bureau of Investigation was tasked to investigate. The controversy appears to have died down—”under investigation” is de facto closure for many cases that get to the news and just as soon vanish from public attention.
The most in-your-face blatant violation of election laws is the vote-buying that repeatedly happens in campaign rallies in the guise of contest prizes given out to rally attendees. It looks as if the Comelec can only helplessly gaze at this pernicious practice.
One would expect that the appointment by President Duterte of three new commissioners is a warning signal at a higher level. Of the three newly appointed commissioners, George Erwin Garcia and Aimee Torrefranca-Neri were publicly objected to by Sen. Franklin Drilon for good reasons. Garcia was the lawyer of Marcos Jr. in his electoral protest against Vice President Leonor “Leni” Robredo. Neri was openly accused by Ferdinand Topacio of receiving bribes from convict Herbert Colanggo when she was assistant secretary at the Department of Justice. These two new commissioners and Saidamin Pangarungan, appointed ad-interm chairman of the Comelec, join commissioners Soccorro B. Inting, Marlon S. Casquejo, Ferolino, and Rey E. Bulay, making the present commission all Duterte appointees.
Despite these anomalies, the Comelec is not giving the warranted civic due diligence. This insufficient sense of alarm at all of these adverse signals makes one uneasy.
In the Ukraine war, experts have predicted that a 10-20 percent loss in combat capability of the invading Russian troops will prevent them from accomplishing their mission of capturing Kyiv and the installation of a more Russia-friendly government. Could such be applied to the Comelec?
In project management, software engineer Edward Yourdon tells us that when you have only 50 percent of the required resources (unbudgeted, undelivered, or lost to inefficiency or corruption), or you are being forced to do the job in half the time required or do it with just half the human resources needed, you have a “death march.”
Or the May 9 elections could be an impending “black swan” event. The problem with black swan events is that they are outliers. They do not fall within reasonably recurring patterns. They also have cataclysmic effects. The most chilling attribute is this: they can be explained only after the fact.
There is no way we can tell from the past behavior of Comelec. The history of the commission is paved with the heroism and patriotism of former commissioners like Haydee Yorac, Hilario Davide Jr., Christian Monsod, Harriet Demetriou. But we also have Luz Tangcangco and Benjamin Abalos, and of course Virgilio Garcillano on the other side.
It is time some human resources, logistics, and scrutiny be directed to the Comelec. For instance, the number of COVID-19 fatalities that need to be weeded out from the list of voters, in addition to those to be delisted for not voting in the last two elections, is a tremendous number that can change the results.
This looks like an innocuous task, but Americans now facing a threatening Donald Trump comeback through voter denial tactics know better.
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