The new methods of election cheating and fraud
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2004-05-31
Many people miss the point and the big picture when the issue of Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ) possibly winning the '04 election is raised. Luckily, since I have previously written some of the most scathing tirades against FPJ, I have also established my motives to be none other than to make a point of truth. I was never for FPJ and I still maintain that having FPJ as president will be the country's most devastating man-made disaster.

And having said that, this does not mean I will sanction any cheating operation to deprive FPJ the presidency in the event that this is justly validated by the appropriate vote count. The issue then is no longer whether I want FPJ to become a president or not but whether I will be party to the rape of democracy.

Many of those in the middle and upper classes, especially those stricken with the Fear FPJ factor in the last electoral exercise, will be making the big mistake of acquiescing to the rape of democracy just to prevent someone they dread from becoming the next president. What they may not realize is that their perceived 'remedy' will open a Pandora's box that will serve to create worse problems than if FPJ had become president.

Unfortunately for the country, the last elections were anything but clean and credible. All the signs of this becoming a bungled and a fraud-riddled vote started with the appointment of just about the most incompetent and controversial COMELEC commissioners and Chairman by incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo despite the vocal protests of many sectors of society that included the Catholic Church, civil society and NAMFREL.

COMELEC chair Ben Abalos has to take his place now among the worst regarded COMELEC chairmen reminiscent of the ignominious reign of Leonardo Perez, his counterpart during the Marcos years. Even before the elections, Abalos already registered a dismal public satisfaction rating in an SWS survey. It is only logical to conclude that the public dissatisfaction with Abalos would have worsened after the bungled '04 elections.

The problem is that most people are unable to recognize and mark the spot where the fraud and cheating had been committed in the last elections. They still nurture the notion that the same type and extent of cheating and harassment at the precinct level during the controversial 1986 Snap elections continue to be employed. Unbeknownst to many, the hocus pocus is no longer at the precinct level where once the nation stood aghast at the brazen ballot snatching and terrorism of voters and teachers.

Election cheating and fraud in the Macapagal-Arroyo era have evolved into a wholesale operation that shifts the focus on the large-scale provincial Certificates of Canvass (COC). Here the main conduit is money and no longer the goons that we saw in previous elections. The cast of unsavory characters features the COMELEC provincial officer and the provincial board of canvassers that includes the school superintendent, fiscal and the designated COMELEC Board Chairman.

Under the new setup, there is little visibility and therefore the cheating operation is harder to prove. We all know that the COMELEC provincial officer, school superintendent, fiscal and designated COMELEC Board Chairman who raked in payola will most certainly look the other away and deny any commission of fraud.

What enables the cheaters to alter the provincial COCs is the prior doctoring of the statements of votes tallied from the municipal level and by padding the actual number of votes cast (or DAGDAG). A padded increase of 10% of votes cast in hard-to-detect remote areas can easily translate to over one million added votes. It comes as no surprise then that most of the cheating operations occur in frontier Mindanao that is bereft of adequate media coverage.

Many were quick to crucify NAMFREL when its officials said that the poll watch body did not witness election fraud in a grand scale to justify branding the recent elections as fraudulent and sans credibility. NAMFREL is involved only in precinct tally reporting. That being the case, NAMFREL could not have witnessed the cheating the way it is now operated.

Even NAMFREL, I tend to believe, had been the unwitting victim of programmed returns that facilitated the trending that the camp of FPJ had been complaining about from day 1 after the elections.

The programming of the returns that NAMFREL reported seemed to have been controlled through the identification window. In fact, NAMFREL Chairman Joe Concepcion complained that these 'erroneously' filled-up identification of precinct ID numbers, number of registered voters, votes cast and actually tallied were the cause of delays in the NAMFREL count. NAMFREL cannot tally returns if these precinct identification numbers do not jibe with the master list supplied by COMELEC or if the data on voters and actual votes cast are missing or incomplete.

These incomplete returns are referred to the COMELEC and can only be tallied in the NAMFREL count after COMELEC clearance. The question that comes to mind is: was this the result of honest incompetence or was it a case of programmed incompetence in order to manufacture a trend in the count?

To prove my point, look at the reporting pattern of precincts that composed the NAMFREL count as of Monday, May 24 - from Region 1 - 60.45%, Region 2 - 54.84%, Region 3 - 59.30%, Region 4 - 62.83%, Region 5 - 60.46%, Region 6 - 47.39%, Region 7 - 94.45% (note this standout high reporting incidence), Region 8 - 57.38%, Region 9 - 60.65%, Region 10 - 62.88%, Region 11 - 84.82%, Region 12 - 44.41%, ARMM - 53.84%, CARAGA - 57.16%, CAR - 65.82% and NCR - 63.76%.

Where the rest of the regions were reporting at a level of 44 to 63%, Region 7 - where Macapagal-Arroyo led FPJ by way of her 1.5 million votes vs. FPJ's 354,000 (as of May 24) - managed to report already 94.45% of the region's precincts! My ever suspicious mind is further drawn to the precinct reports from Region 11 - where FPJ was leading Macapagal-Arroyo by a mere 533,000 votes over Macapagal-Arroyo's 522,000.

My conclusion - Region 7 was programmed so that Macapagal-Arroyo could mount that lead in the early count and thus condition the public mind that she is the winner. The Region 11 tally reported at a level of 84.82% so as to remove suspicion that the 94.45% reporting of Region 7 was to initiate a pro-Macapagal-Arroyo trend. The high reporting level of Region 11 was likely intended so that the Region 7 report does not stick out like a sore thumb.

It does arouse suspicion that nearby regions like Regions 1 to 4 - by no coincidence FPJ bailiwicks - were only reporting precinct returns at a range of 54 to 62% where Region 7, that is so far away, was already reporting 94.45%.

As a result, even the US, which stands four squares behind Macapagal-Arroyo, is bothered by the possible repercussions of the loss of credibility of these elections. I believe that there was more to former US Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Bosworth's visit than what was announced. If from my own sources in the political field, I can detect the dangerous drift to extra-constitutional mode - with the probable scenario of a civil war - I am sure the US government with all their listening posts know this too.

I am sure it is not lost on US officialdom that the masses here are in such desperate economic straits that can easily make them prone to being the main players in a social explosion. I am sure that the US government is not taken in by all the propaganda of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime that they have the full support of the military. More than anything else, the restless junior officers are the very reasons why we are now susceptible to a civil war - which assumes of course that the military that professes to stand by the incumbent president will stick by her through thick and thin.

Historically, the military goes with the people when the issue is clear that a sitting president has lost the confidence and tolerance of the governed. Such was the case with Marcos; such was the case with Estrada. In fact such too was the case with the US government who also shafted Marcos when it was clear in 1986 that Marcos was history.

Neither Macapagal-Arroyo nor FPJ is worth the inconvenience of a civil war. Let's hope that those in the military all see it that way and unite with the people. When the people and the military are united in common cause, as in EDSA I and II, we attain a bloodless resolution of a political crisis. It is when the military is split that the specter of civil war surfaces.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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