[OPINION | Newspoint] Insidious insertions

Vergel O. Santos
[OPINION | Newspoint] Insidious insertions
To be sure, no situation exploitable for authoritarianism has presented itself for the rest of the nation – until this election


Vote-buying, equipment failure, and harassment resulting in some deaths have marred the midterm vote. So, what’s new?

President Duterte himself has dismissed vote-buying as “integral” to Philippine elections. He says nothing about the other disturbing factors, but, being similarly familiar and nothing going off the scale, these, too, he would likely dismiss. The attitude is too cavalier and obviously morally flawed to deserve comment. And that’s Duterte for you.

There’s one thing, however, that should give us, if not him, pause, something so patently insidious as to decidedly cloud the integrity of this vote: it’s the insertion of the name of an unchosen candidate in the computer-generated receipt a voter gets to validate his or her choices; it’s not unlike a restaurant bill showing an item the customer neither ordered nor consumed.

By midafternoon I had come across one report counting 40 cases. A few have been brought to my own attention, and the recurrent names are those of Bong Go and Bato de la Rosa – if they make it to the Senate, that doubtless makes for its clowning glory. If their names were typical of the insertions and the name Chel Diokno did appear in any of them, the anomaly could not have been a mere glitch, thus blamable on the poor computer.

Further in that case, Duterte becomes himself a conceivable suspect: not only does Go happen to be his closest-in sidekick and Bato de la Rosa his sycophantic former police chief, under whose two-year watch his brutal war on drugs accounted for more than 20,000 kills; he went out of his way campaigning especially for them. 

The Commission on Elections itself has some explaining to do. Given its boast of an exclusive and fail-safe control over its machines and the general conduct of the elections, it is difficult to imagine how the insertions could have happened without insider complicity. 

Apparently, the names were inserted one at a time, a prudent precaution taken by the defrauders in exploiting the probability, not unlikely in these politically polarized times, that voters on the other side would tend to vote only for the 8 oppositionist candidates and leave the 4 remaining slots for senators open – open, as evidently it has turned out, to fraudulent filling. 

With the Lower House and the Supreme Court coopted, the Senate remains the last counterweight institution Duterte needs on his side to enable him to rule as a dictator, an oft-repeated promise, without having to declare an emergency and to force the issue with an army known to be hung up on constitutionality.

He has, in fact, kept the largest of the archipelago’s 3 main islands – Mindanao – under martial law for two years now. He created the suitable setting by making war with mismatched outlaws and rebels in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, and by bombing that city into such desolation that, if you asked him, it would continue to require martial rule to ensure its rehabilitation in peace.

To be sure, no situation exploitable for authoritarianism has presented itself for the rest of the nation – until this election. But, for all the nice numbers he and his candidates have been polling, why have they seemed desperate?

Why the obvious big spending? Why the shotgun approach of swamping the electorate with far more candidates than electoral seats to fill? Why those ludicrous last-minute concoctions of oppositionist plots against Duterte?

Why shut out the old-reliable election watchdog Namfrel? Why deny the opposition, decimated as it already is, its legal standing and deprive it of its concomitant right to observe the conduct of the vote closely?

Never mind all that. But if buying votes and inserting the name of a rejected candidate in the voting receipt, which constitutes vote-rigging, are glossed over and don’t inspire enough moral outrage, the nation only deserves to come under a Dictator Duterte, who, in turn, only deserves to get away with murder. – Rappler.com

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