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With Due Respect

An election to remember

As a democratic process, the presidential polls last May 9 set some records that will long be remembered in terms, among others, of the speed in the transmission of the digitized election results, of margins of victory for the victorious, and of the resurgence of voluntarism for the vanquished.

TO BEGIN WITH, THE VOTER TURNOUT WAS 83.77 PERCENT, a truly remarkable feat amid a pandemic. Moreover, the transparency servers of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) received over 95 percent of the digitized results from the vote-counting machines (VCMs) on the early morning of May 10 after the polling precincts closed at 7 p.m. on Election Day, a period of less than 12 hours, thereby sealing the massive mandate of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM) and “Inday” Sara Duterte.

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These two achievements (voter turnout and early election results) are much better than those of the last presidential elections in the United States in which the nationwide voter turnout was only about 66 percent, and the victorious presidential and vice presidential candidates were known only on Nov. 7, 2020, at approximately 11:25 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) — four days after Election Day (Nov. 3, 2020) — when presidential bet Joe Biden got passed the 270 electoral votes he needed to win.

So, also, for the first time since the 1987 Constitution took effect, the presidential and vice presidential winners won more than 50 percent of the total votes cast. In the past, the best percentage was set by Benigno Aquino III who won with 42.08 percent.

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Finally, for the first time, too, the votes garnered by BBM (over 31 million) were more than twice those obtained by second placer Leni Robredo (less than 15 million) while those of Sara (over 31 million) were three times more than the votes of second placer Kiko Pangilinan (less than 10 million).

With these record-breaking feats, the Philippines shed its dubious record of being an election slowpoke; in fact, it may have set a record for being one of the fastest in determining — unofficially but definitively — the winners in a nationwide democratic election.

ON THE OTHER HAND, VOLUNTEERISM SURGED in political rallies of the opposition reaching a crescendo of about one million during its miting de avance in Makati. Volunteerism was evident not merely in the number of attendees but also in the way they merrily shared their baon, campaigned house-to-house, set up tarps, messaged one another through social media, composed, sang, or played favorite tunes, all at their own initiative and expense.

This resurgence — that Leni hopes would become a permanent movement, the “Angat Buhay” — should be encouraged as an essential element of democracy. Indeed, what differentiates a vibrant democracy from a lifeless autocracy is the freedom to disagree, to oppose. True, the freedoms of speech, of assembly, and of the press are important, too, but without the freedom to oppose, all other libertarian ideals shrink into insignificance.

Indeed, the majority had spoken clearly but let it respect the minority’s right to oppose peacefully and loyally under the rule of law to promote the best interests of our country.

VOLUNTEERISM IN THE POLITICAL, THOUGH NONPARTISAN, ARENA was originated three decades ago in 1991 by lay leader Henrietta T. de Villa when she founded, with the guidance and support of the hierarchy, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) as the Catholic laity’s response to our people’s call for vigilance in guarding the vote and in educating voters. Nationwide, it has gathered over 500,000 volunteers. And since then, it has grown in size, reach, and effectiveness in championing “CHAMP—Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful, and Peaceful Elections.”

With the help of academic experts, current PPCRV chair Myla Villanueva, a techie of the highest caliber, quickly debunked suspicions of an alleged malevolent “68:32” pattern in the reports of election returns.

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More vitally, PPCRV is still at work a week after Election Day, patiently comparing the physical election returns with the electronically transmitted results. And so far, it has reported a 98.39 percent match rate with the balance of 1.61 percent either to be “revalidated” or left without any match because the Comelec “stopped transmission at 98.35 percent.” Similarly, 1Sambayan said the “partial Election Returns [it] gathered bear the System Hash Code published by the Comelec.”

As for the Comelec, while its present composition should be congratulated for spearheading a generally peaceful and orderly election, still it must address lingering concerns to replace the antiquated VCMs; to hold new polls promptly in places where there was a “failure of elections;” to decide speedily pre-election cases (like disqualifications of candidates and cancellations of certificates of candidacy); to eliminate “guns, goons, and gold;” to answer complaints of long queues, etc.

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