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A long way to go

/ 03:32 AM May 15, 2013

The counting isn’t over, but this much we know now of the 2013 midterm elections: We didn’t know that much.

The Commission on Elections endured incessant warnings from various civic groups that it was about to stage-manage disastrous, dishonest polls, due mainly to the problematic precinct count optical scan machines it had acquired. Almost up to the eve of the polls, the Comelec was wrangling with watchdog and information-technology groups over the much-delayed release of the source code for the PCOS machines.

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True enough, there were many reports of machine breakdowns on Election Day. The poll watchdog Kontra Daya said such cases were “widespread and had a major effect on the conduct of the elections.” But Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, was more sanguine in her assessment, saying that “the 400 issues or machines that suffered some malfunction is not such a bad percentage against 77,889 machines used for the elections.”

By the end of the day, as the numbers began piling up, the general impression seemed to be that, despite the glitches, the elections had run more or less successfully. Charges of cheating were at a minimum compared to previous polls, and the speed with which the figures were being transmitted and tallied were in line with the similarly fast results that characterized the 2010 presidential election, the first time the Philippines had employed automated polls.

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So, credit where credit is due. If the results hold up and the numbers are eventually ratified, the Comelec, and the thousands of teachers, volunteers and sundry personnel across the country who worked hard to ensure that the elections came off as fair, honest and credible, deserve appreciation.

Another surprising development: Grace Poe’s leap to No. 1 in the count. The surveys had invariably shown Loren Legarda as the topnotcher down to the last days of the campaign, even with Alan Peter Cayetano reportedly employing black prop to chip away at her lead. But their squabble was for naught. That Poe outran them both and blind-sided all professional prognoses with her stunning performance is indicative of a couple of things.

One, her father’s magic is still alive. The daughter of Fernando Poe Jr. ran on the strength of his fabled name, even daring to make a pun of it in her TV ads. It irritated the hell out of social media denizens, but in the end, it worked. If we are to take Poe’s numbers as indication of the extent of goodwill still commanded by her father’s memory, then her victory is essentially one more proof of the historic fraud said to have been perpetrated against him by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election.

Two, social media, the bastion of the middle and upper classes, had minimal effect on the elections. On Facebook and Twitter, a markedly different landscape reigned from the one that was unveiled last Monday. Poe, for one, was mocked for her homespun TV ads. Nancy Binay was the object of relentless ridicule not only for her lack of qualifications but also for her skin color. But she’s at No. 5 at this writing. Online, the noise was loud for the likes of Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño, and Richard Gordon—all down by the wayside in the latest count.

The fight, it would seem, is not on the Internet, via clever memes and civic-minded shout-outs, but still out there in the hustings, among flesh-and-blood voters, where Binay had applied herself to the exclusion of anything else.

Anyone who’s been hoping that social media and technology will now be a game-changer in Philippine politics will have to wait a bit more, it seems. For all the lamentations online, not only are the usual suspects back, but they’re back with a vengeance: the Marcoses, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, even more celebrities in public office, and, most astoundingly, Joseph Estrada, who was kicked out of Malacañang, who was convicted of plunder—and who has managed a spectacular political resurrection as the newly elected mayor of Manila.

And, despite the automated polls, old-time politics reared its ugly head: 27 killed and 24 wounded in election-related incidents; widespread vote-buying, with boxing champ Manny Pacquiao himself allegedly involved in the mauling of a barangay captain who had objected to it; and the ever-present threat of violence to resolve issues, as in the case of the police standoff with NBI agents at the Cavite home of Sen. Bong Revilla.

One step forward, two steps back. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

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TAGS: 2013 Elections, 2013 midterm elections, Commission on Elections
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