Return of the 3 Gs? | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

Return of the 3 Gs?

/ 05:03 AM April 23, 2022

“Guns, goons, and gold” is a catchphrase often used to describe the use of violence and vote-buying in elections. Not surprisingly, the phrase appears to have originated in the Philippines, most notably during the 1969 national elections, and was quickly picked up and popularized by local and foreign media and even show business.

National Artist Nick Joaquin, in an article in the now-defunct Philippines Free Press, writes that Ferdinand Marcos Sr., then gunning for an unprecedented re-election, decided to “leave nothing to chance” and embarked on a campaign, despite his excess of advantages over his opponents, marked by the “Three Gs.” Significantly, it was alleged that Marcos Sr. used the military and the government bureaucracy in his pursuit of a second term which would be followed, in turn, by the declaration of martial law in 1972.

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Are the three Gs back in commission? Aside from the Tallano gold of dubious provenance being promised voters by some campaign leaders, netizens have posted pictures and video clips showing distribution of meal stubs, food packages, and even cash to rally-goers in certain campaign groups while hundreds of rented buses are on standby to ferry them to and from the rally sites.

While concerned citizens have raised howls of protest over the return of dirty tactics and outright vote-buying in elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the body most concerned with ensuring free, orderly, and honest elections, seems to be looking the other way, issuing denials or gentle remonstrations against violators. Similarly, the police even prematurely dismissed as “not election-related” violent incidents on the campaign trail, like the recent shooting that targeted a meeting between presidential candidate/labor leader Leodegario “Ka Leody” de Guzman and leaders and members of the Manobo-Pulangihon tribe. The indigenous people were trying to occupy a portion of a plantation in Quezon town in Bukidnon that, they claim, had been part of their ancestral domain.

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According to a police report, shortly after noon, gunmen fired on the group which included De Guzman, two of his party’s senatorial candidates, and the tribe members. The first volley of gunfire hit farmer organizer Nannie Abela who was standing a foot away from De Guzman. Also wounded were four tribal members who were brought to a local hospital for treatment. By the time the police arrived, the gunmen had fled, although police now say they have identified several suspects but have yet to make arrests. Both De Guzman and his running mate, Walden Bello, have accused Quezon Mayor Pablo Lorenzo III, the general manager of the development corporation that occupies the lot, of fielding the armed bodyguards. Lorenzo denied this.

Such ambush is nothing new to the indigenous people whose ancestral lands, despite government guarantees, have come under constant threat by local corporate interests and their cohorts in government offices. Ka Leody’s presence among them, though, has elevated the otherwise routine violence into an election issue that once more raised the specter of the three Gs.

Civility and respect seem to have been trashed as well among candidates on the hustings in the country’s capital no less. Easter Sunday saw three presidential aspirants—Sen. Ping Lacson, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, and Arroyo national security adviser Norberto Gonzales—holding fort in a plush hotel, but not to talk about gut issues. What was intended to be a mere announcement of their determination to stay the course, as these honorable men originally set out to do, degenerated into a free-for-all against fellow presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo, currently No. 2 in poll surveys, next only to frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr., after Moreno suddenly called for No. 2’s withdrawal from the race. Lacson later distanced himself from the withdrawal call and Gonzales apologized, and the press conference became an ugly spectacle met with scorn and memes about the male candidates ganging up on the lone woman presidential candidate. Why target No. 2 and not No.1, people asked.

It’s a valid question, but perhaps the more significant questions that should be answered at this time are: Is the attack on De Guzman’s group a warning of further bloodshed should newcomers try to encroach into the turf of entrenched political families and their corporate patrons? Is there a message too of police inaction or indifference from authorities on such cases? Isn’t there a gun ban in place during this election period? Should we brace ourselves for a repeat of the 2009 Ampatuan massacre? So what is the Comelec, the interior and local government and the justice departments doing to avert electoral violence and weed out the culture of the three Gs?

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TAGS: #VotePH2022, 2022 elections, Comelec, electoral violence, guns goons and gold, vote buying
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