Why Filipinos think the Arroyo regime will cheat
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-03-29
In all the years I have spent observing Philippine political exercises, no election has invoked so much public skepticism as the May 2007 elections. This time, there are just too many people who are convinced that there will be massive cheating.

A lot of people have approached me during meetings and social gatherings asking if I think the elections will be fair, clean and honest. This collective expression of doubt and misgivings is the result of people’s loss of faith in the election process following the absence of closure over the Garci tapes. If the regime got away with it, it will do it again, so they say.

But can we blame people for thinking that way?

On one hand, we have the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) regime, tagged as "cheater" — at the same time finding itself besieged with the following mega issues:

1. The UN and the international community have called the regime to task for the murders of close to 900 activists. That is blood on Madame Arroyo’s hands.

2. Then there is the jolting PERC Report which now rates the Philippines as the most corrupt country in Asia. In this day and age, any regime that is tagged as the most corrupt would have sunk in an election into ignominy.

3. To blunt regime claims of an economic boom, there is the SWS survey that revealed that 1 of every 5 Filipino households experience involuntary hunger. Another survey showed 53% of Filipinos rating themselves as poor. No regime could hope to win an election with a misery index like this.

4. Then another survey reveals that among the institutions, the national administration (- 1%) and the cabinet (- 3%) rate the poorest compared to the Senate and the Supreme Court.

5. Even before all these negative developments, Madame Arroyo has consistently registered negative satisfaction ratings while majority of Filipinos continue to believe that she is not their legitimately elected president. Another majority wants her ousted from office — a logical consequence of the doubts on her legitimacy.

Thus, it was not surprising that the regime had a difficult time putting together a Senate ticket and in the end, found itself cajoling a showbiz star and five candidates who originally wanted to run with the Opposition. Faced with these depressing conditions, we can’t help detecting a worrisome pattern on the part of the administration that seems to telegraph intentions to attain poll victory by hook or by crook.

These are:

1. The deployment of military troops in the Metro area’s vote-rich depressed communities which this column has concluded to be an election-related move. Other sectors, including a Catholic Bishop, have denounced this as a plan to reduce the Opposition lead by unfair means.

2. The emergence of questionable party list groups which is seen as a brazen attempt to get as many administration congressional seats as possible to outnumber pro-impeachment voters in the new Congress.

3. The revival of government involvement in microfinance despite an appalling track record of failing to collect lent money. This is seen as a ploy to buy community leaders.

4. The renewed misuse of government resources similar to the Philhealth cards in 2004 and the one-sided coverage of administration campaign activities in government-controlled media. In this category would also fall the current ad campaigns of government agencies that are slanted to make Madame Arroyo look good — like the commercial of PCSO.

But the biggest tell-tale sign of all that points to cheating in the May elections is the shameful behavior of the Comelec. This Comelec under the watch of Chairman Ben Abalos will make even the infamous and unlamented Leonie Perez of the Marcos era recoil.

Just look at how some party list groups like Ladlad were eliminated outright. Now compare that to the 12 party list groups that Rep. Etta Rosales exposed as Palace fronts and how Abalos did not even bother to investigate these. In the case of these alleged Palace fronts, government executives already confirmed, as reported on ANC’s World Tonight, as having assisted them.

Until last Tuesday, Abalos had persistently allowed nuisance candidate Jose Pepito Cayetano to run despite obvious misrepresentations in his filed certificate of candidacy and no credible source of the wherewithal by which to conduct a nationwide campaign. Action came only after KBL president Bongbong Marcos categorically denied having endorsed not just Jose Pepito Cayetano but that entire bogus KBL Senate ticket.

"My father did not put up this party to be a repository of nuisance candidates" the young Marcos said on national television. Only then did Abalos realize that he ran out of excuses to allow the nuisance Cayetano to run.

Who wouldn’t think that cheating is a done deal in the May elections with a Comelec under such heavy suspicion? People wonder who Abalos serves: is it the Filipino people or the people who appointed him?

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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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