‘Not about me’
After an extremely divisive election, unexpected sources of reconciliation and hope.
First on the list is the high voter turnout. The number needs to be verified, but Commission on Elections Chair Andres Bautista has estimated that a record 81 percent of the 54.4 million voters in the Philippines went to cast their ballot yesterday. This is considerably higher than the 77 percent recorded in the 2013 midterm polls, and the 75 percent recorded in the 2010 presidential election.
The relative tightness of the race for president and the actual neck-and-neck nature of the contest for vice president must have helped drive voters to the polling centers. In 2010, the preelection survey frontrunner was polling much higher than the frontrunner in 2016, and for longer. Whatever the reason, the nation benefited from the high voter turnout. In the absence of a second round of balloting, a so-called run-off election between the two leading candidates, the general voter turnout becomes a secondary form of mandate. The more people who vote, the more credible the election is—and the stronger the mandate of the winning candidate, whoever he or she may be.
We think that is certainly the case with Monday’s vote. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s election as the next president may rest on a plurality, but the fact that fully four-fifths of registered voters took part in the electoral exercise places his victory on firmer ground.
Second, the rapid pace of the Commission on Election’s unofficial quick count, conducted in partnership with the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. The official word was that it would probably take 36 to 48 hours before a majority of polling centers can transmit their voting data; instead, millions of votes were tallied in the unofficial quick count in the first couple of hours after the polls closed, and by dawn the next day over two-thirds of the polling centers had transmitted their results.
Despite all the mind-conditioning efforts of political operators, especially about the supposed existence of a vast conspiracy to rig the automated elections; despite the initial reports of malfunctioning machines or hapless election inspectors which filled the airwaves in the first hours of Election Day; despite the long lines and the summer heat—some 44 million Filipinos went to the polls and voted successfully; as of press time, about 42 million votes have been tallied in the quick count.
This is good news for the democratic project. As we have learned from sorry experience, the main source of electoral fraud in the past was wholesale rigging made possible by a slow canvass. Automation—with the appropriate safeguards, of course, including mechanisms for transparency and a random audit—makes the “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) scams of the past virtually impossible.
This is our third automated election, and the preliminary assessment is that it has considerably improved on the first two. We are grateful to the Comelec commissioners, to all election personnel, and the many teachers who served on the boards of election inspectors, for making that improvement a reality.
Third, the unprecedented series of gracious concessions by the major candidates. First to concede was presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe, who called Duterte before midnight. Others followed, including vice presidential candidates Sen. Chiz Escudero, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, and Sen. Gringo Honasan.
The Liberal Party’s standard-bearer Mar Roxas also followed suit, first waiting for his running mate, Rep. Leni Robredo, who is leading the vice presidential race, to arrive from Naga, and then offering a truly gracious, civic-spirited explanation for his decision to concede to Duterte before a single vote was included in the official count.
“According to the unofficial tally of Comelec, Mayor Digong is the clear winner. I wish you success, Mayor Duterte. Your success is the success of the Filipino people,” Roxas said. He called on his followers and those of Robredo to do all they can to ensure that every vote for her is properly counted. And then, noting the tears in his supporters’ eyes, he said the following words that will be remembered for a long time:
“There are many tears in the room. Let me tell you: this is not a time for tears. For our country, we have had a peaceful successful transfer of power.” He then added, like a coda: “It’s not about me. It’s not about anyone. It’s about how we love our country and how we’ll do all that we can for her. She’s the only one.”
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