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‘Read only LP’

IT’S NOT a scuttlebutt, as scuttlebutts go in the cloak-and-dagger elections we have in the Philippines. It is verifiable information because it comes from a Liberal Party insider. The insider happens to be a reelectionist candidate.

In its superficial value, it is understandable that ruling political parties are clothed with a veneer of formidability. And the LP is exactly that. It is not just to say that it is the party in power. We know too well that being in power translates into a blank check that opens the way for the use of all possible gimmickry, including those not yet invented, to cheat on election results. Forget “daang matuwid.” This is the Philippine electoral exercise to which none of us were born yesterday.

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One of those methods may just be in the works, if we are to believe the insider. In fact, the same rumor is going the rounds in many localities where the incumbent happens to be an LP member. Coincidence perhaps?

But first, what did Virgilio Garcillano do in Manila last Sept. 23? That was a Wednesday, the day that columnist Jarius Bondoc said Garci took a flight from Cagayan de Oro to Manila. The next day, Sept. 24, the alleged, infamous power “election player” was in a meeting with three personalities, said to be representing a powerful principal. Accompanying Garci was a close associate/confidante of many years, who goes by the name of Butch Pakinggan. The principal is said to be Mar Roxas.

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Mostly bordering on skepticism were the commentaries that followed Bondoc’s revelation. By the way, sources confirmed that Garci and company had indeed taken a Manila-bound flight that day from Laguindingan airport. As to what was discussed in the meeting, we will never know. It will likely remain, as it is, a rumor further heating up passions in our highly partisan climate.

Many, however, are not impressed. Is there a room for Garci’s tricks in automated elections? For the majority of us who are IT-challenged, the answer can only be “maybe yes” and “maybe no.”

But the weightier question begs to be asked: Why would Mar Roxas’ operatives, as alleged (for the benefit of the doubt), meet with Garci? Wasn’t it they who pilloried Garci for being in cahoots with his alleged principal in the 2004 elections, Gloria Arroyo? If this administration had thrown even the kitchen sink at the former president, successfully painting her as the quintessential Cruella de Vil in Philippine history, why would Garci even matter an iota to them?

Dirty politics is all about leverage. A party in power will do all it can to win the elections, and it has in its hands chips that can make or break a man as vulnerable as Virgilio Garcillano. It’s called legal cases. Garci now enjoys the life of semi-retirement in the boondocks of Cagayan de Oro. But that precisely is the danger he faces. Anytime, the “daang matuwid” administration can resurrect these cases and pry him out from

semi-oblivion to face judgment in the courts of law. And we can only understand very well the quid pro quo. We can also understand that only a party in power has such a malevolent capability.

The script for May 2016 is supposed to let Garci play a secondary role. How that will exactly pan out is unknown to us, as it is even baffling. That is where the insider’s information comes in. The main gambit of the administration’s play is not Garci but the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, so it is claimed; as early as this coming December, the operation will start—that is, the programming of all PCOS machines to “read only LP” (that is, the names of the party’s candidates) on election day.

That is indeed a serious accusation, and we certainly do not expect the LP to admit this. It also faces serious obstacles. For one, Commission on Elections Chair Andres Bautista is known to be a man of integrity. Besides, to break into the code of the PCOS machines, the LP requires an operation far from even the notice of the Comelec chair, to say the least. Literally, it will only have to fool Bautista.

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Those who wish to treat this information as a mere rumor, like any election rumors in the Philippines, are being reasonable. Unless a squealing rat will abandon ship, we will never know. What we seem to understand though at this point is a President who is just dying to avoid a series of suits beginning July 1, 2016. Is it a realization on his part that the suffering he has caused a former president—whose legal cases have not turned in absolute evidence of guilt—will come back to haunt him as karmic justice? Or, in respect of those who do not believe in karma, a you-reap-what-you-sow justice?

More than ensuring that Mar Roxas gets to be the next president, the more underlying intention is to put in a friendlier president to prevent the incarceration of P-Noy.

A provincial governor personally intimated to me that a transfer of support to a presidential candidate other than Roxas has already been effectively prevented. Disobedience will be met with a frightening sanction, the governor said—from the Ombudsman. It is not being clever. The LP is just being true to form—as the party in power.

Those who have decided to tow the line of “daang matuwid,” like the seemingly innocent, puritan Leni Robredo, will have a difficult time defending their own party affiliation if the read-only-LP plot turns out to be true. Will they stand up for the truth if it will be proven true? Clearly, what the country needs is a game changer.

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TAGS: Elections 2016, Hello Garci scandal, Liberal Party, nation, news, PCOS
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