How to clean up the usual cheating hot spots
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-05-31
Anyone who follows the news knows where massive cheating is taking place. Offhand, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao invariably figure in highly questionable election outcomes suggestive of grand scale cheating.

We cannot just sit back helplessly waiting for that miracle that will transform these cheating hot spots into a haven for honest and fair elections. Thanks to the now more watchful and highly suspicious public, we have become very vigilant in protecting our vote. No doubt, we must have made it quite a challenge for the cheaters to ply their nefarious trade. Now, they fear discovery and a life term in prison.

Fr. Ed Panlilio’s signal victory in Pampanga – where the anak ng Diyos beat the anak ng jueteng and the anak ng vulcan, to quote the text joke doing the rounds – was accomplished not just by prayer but by vigilant and unwavering public activism in the tallying and canvassing.

Of course, poll automation would have been the best solution. Had computerization been implemented, it would have spared us of all the tension, loss of sleep and maybe even prevent some of the election-related killings.

Delayed canvassing translates to cheating in progress. It’s either one party is trying to stall the canvassing in order to be able to cheat or the other party who was cheated is preventing the proclamation of the cheater.

Critical cheating areas must vote ahead

The usual problems encountered in such areas as Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur can be avoided if these critical areas are made to vote simultaneously with the absentee voter — before the designated election date. That way, the election results in these critical areas are already determined by the time the rest of the nation votes.

By scheduling early elections in the critical areas, the Comelec (Commission on Elections) is able to concentrate more resources — police, military, watchers, election officers and so forth — to ensure that the election is free, honest and fair. Even the citizen watchdog groups like the PPCRV can have the added advantage of deploying more of its people to provide the safeguard mechanism.

Isolating and making the critical areas vote ahead of the nation would put these hot spots under close national scrutiny, making it extremely difficult for anyone to rig the vote.

These critical areas happen to be the focus of fraudsters trying to fill their vote deficits. The canvassing in a critical area is deliberately stalled to allow the cheater to determine just exactly how much hocus pocus is needed to reverse the vote deficit.

In the 2004 elections, Fernando Poe Jr. chalked up a big lead in Luzon which accounts for over 60% of the votes. After knowing the Luzon results, the cheating operators can thus determine the extent of vote reduction and padding needed to reverse the results.

Weed out the usual cheaters

The same election cheaters, who figured in the 2004 cheating in Mindanao, as divulged by the Garci Tapes, are again occupying center stage. That’s another demerit for Chairman Ben Abalos that these Comelec personnel have not been removed from these known cheating hot spots.

If Abalos really intended to conduct a clean election, he could, at the very least, put the usual suspects on preventive suspension or transfer them to desk jobs elsewhere where they cannot do their usual thing. Otherwise, we can’t blame most people for thinking that Abalos is in the Comelec precisely to promote the political interests of the administration that placed him there.

There is absolutely no justification for allowing the implicated cheaters of the Garci operation to remain in their posts. Assigning a neophyte election officer to the same post is even acceptable if the objective is to prevent another round of cheating or to convince people of the Comelec’s good intentions. Thus, the question on many people’s minds: Was it really the Comelec’s intention to prevent cheating?

In the 2004 and 2007 elections, the main sources of the cheating were found in the Comelec itself. Cheating of such massive scale could not have been possible without the connivance of Comelec officials. Therefore, preventing cheating necessarily involves cleaning up the Comelec.

Cheating will not thrive under an honest and determined Comelec officer. One of the finest Comelec Chairmen we ever had — the late Jaime N. Ferrer — taught me three imperatives in ensuring honest government operations.

These are:

1. The official must be inherently moral, ethical and honest. Good fruits do not come from bad trees.

2. The official must know how the shenanigans are being done. There is a big gap between intent to clean up and knowing what to clean up.

3. The official must have the moral courage to do the right thing, fight the good fight. An honest official who is intimidated into inaction is not much of a difference from a crooked official because the result would be unchecked corruption, stealing and cheating.

The bottom line is that cleaning up our election process must begin and focus on the Comelec itself.

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