Few cheating hot spots shouldn’t reverse the national vote
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-05-29
Elections 2007 went down in history as our dirtiest. Cheating started long before the voting took place. International observers blamed Comelec (Commission on Elections) for most of the mess, calling it an act of planned mismanagement.

The Comelec was seen to be so brazenly partial towards making decisions that helped boost the prospects of administration bets, including even taking a ridiculously preferential treatment for obviously nuisance candidates.

Before elections, there were reports about a plot called “Operation ACT.” ACT is an acronym for Opposition Senate candidates Noynoy Aquino, Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV.

Now, election returns coming from cheating hot spots show uncanny mistakes. Votes were shaved from Aquino, Cayetano and Trillanes and added to Team Unity candidates. Comelec Chairman Ben Abalos lackadaisically explained these away as “clerical errors.”

By no coincidence, Aquino, Cayetano and Trillanes are in the top ten of the “Public Enemy” list of the Arroyo regime. Aquino is targeted because he is the son of Cory, whose integrity and international eminence makes her a very credible symbol of protest against Arroyo’s legitimacy issue. Cory’s stature gave Arroyo’s legitimacy issue its greatest impetus.

Alan Cayetano hit a raw nerve when he asked the First Family to issue a blanket waiver to prove that they are not stashing ill-gotten wealth outside the country. Antonio Trillanes IV represented resistance in the military to Madame Arroyo, her greatest nightmare.

By now, we know that the Arroyo regime’s much-vaunted “command vote” actually means cheating operation, plain and simple. Thanks to the Garci Tapes, we already have identified these cheating hot spots. Again thanks to Garci, we even know now who are behind these cheating operations.

The cheaters are back on center stage in the Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao controversies. Let’s not discuss these cheating methods anymore or the people operating the cheating. That is now best left to the cheated candidates to pursue in court so that the new penalty for election sabotage — life imprisonment — may finally be applied. Those who rob the Filipino voters of their greatest power, the power of the vote, should pay the maximum penalty.

Use guidelines for paroled convicts to handle cheating hot spots

Rather than allow these havens for cheaters to reverse the national mandate, we should immediately set aside the questionable election returns or Certificates of Canvass (CoC) the moment cheating rears its ugly head in these areas. If proved manufactured, these election returns or CoC should promptly be disregarded. New elections should be held if warranted.

The same guidelines for paroled convicts should apply to these cheating hot spots. Paroled convicts are not extended the same leniency of law that is allowed non-convicts. In like manner, we should treat the cheating hot spots as places that have been “convicted” in the past for electoral fraud. As such, these hot spots deserve to be put on a very tight leash.

Rather odd isn’t it when Chairman Ben Abalos initially refused to suspend the Maguindanao canvassing after a teacher revealed details of massive cheating. Abalos countered that the Comelec can’t suspend the canvass in Maguindanao because of the testimony of one teacher.

Is truth reliant on numbers? Isn’t one truthful testimony enough to instigate concern and prompt action? How come US Mafia boss John Gotti was convicted on the testimony of Sammy Gravano, another Mafia member? Another US Mafia boss, Vito Genovese, was convicted on the testimony of Joseph Vallachi, another hood. Here we have a teacher testifying, not a hoodlum.

Isn’t it most undemocratic, unconscionable and unjust to use warlords to collaborate in premeditated fraud that will thwart the national will? In Maguindanao, reports point to ballots having been filled up even before Election Day — by minors at that. In some places, foreign observers actually witnessed voters being told what names to write on their ballots.

If these cheating hot spots don’t value democracy and the election process — then these areas have no business affecting the will and mandate of the rest of the nation. Why should the expressed will of 95% of the nation be reversed by a small minority?

Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur are Muslim areas. One wonders if Muslims value democracy at all. They’ve mounted two separate cessation movements — one by the MNLF and another by the MILF — but they don’t seem to want to fight for their right to vote. How come we don’t see the macho Muslim warriors rise up against these warlords who dictate election outcomes in their area?

In this regard, maybe we ought to consider splitting our country into two territories — one will be our DEMOCRATIC Republic of the Philippines and the other will be the COMMAND VOTERS Territory of the Philippines. Let’s give the Command Voters Territory of the Philippines a few islands and full independence, not just autonomy, and be rid of them.

If they don’t want the democratic culture of the rest of the country, then they have no business affecting — much less reversing — our vote.

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