Sunday, May 23, 2010

In the Philippines, There Are No Victims of Cheating, Just Sore Losers

At the risk of sounding too redundant and defensive, I would like to once again categorically state that I have long accepted the fact that I did not make it to the circle of winning senators in the recently concluded elections and that I have not filed any protest case to question the results. I want to make that clear in order to preclude any judgment on what I write in this article.

There has never been an election in the Philippines where there isn’t anyone who cries “I’ve been cheated” after losing their electoral race. Immediately after the proclamations, or sometimes even before, you will hear candidates howl in protest against what they claim are votes that have been stolen from them. Some engage in mass action, some use the media, while others take legal action and file electoral protests in the courts, the Comelec or the electoral tribunals.

Indeed, these accusations of cheating has become as regular as the elections itself that Filipinos, with our brilliance in satire and sarcasm, came up with a cliché---“In Philippine elections there are no losers…just the winners and the cheated”. Perhaps many would agree to that statement, fueled by the seemingly inherent disdain for politicians.

With that kind of attitude towards losing politicians, we can take the cliché even further. We can even say that in the Philippines, there are no victims of cheating…just sore losers. After all, that’s how we look at those claiming that they’ve been cheated—sore losers.

But there lies the contradiction. While we look down upon those who claim to have been cheated, we also believe as truth that in the Philippines, there are politicians who get to where they are because of cheating. The disdain that people have of politicians who claim to have been cheated is the same disdain that people have of politicians who are generally seen as cheaters, liars and stealers.

So in a society where people generally believe that politicians cheat and yet dismiss as sore losers those who claim to have been cheated, where will a victim of cheating get justice? We might as well abolish the mechanism of filing election protests.

Even the Comelec, which is mandated to ensure clean and honest elections, easily dismiss those who claim to have been cheated. The most recent example is the 2010 elections where we see claims of fraud and cheating being treated lightly, even with ridicule, by Comelec officials. Instead of lending at least a listening ear, they greet the complaints with sarcastic tongues.

We seem to have been pushed to callousness in our attitudes towards election cheating to the point that while we accept as reality that there are cheaters in our midst, we do not care enough to act on eradicating it.

After the experience of my father with Dagdag-Bawas in 1995 and Hello Garci in 2004, I can empathize with those who cry foul during elections, although I am certain that not all have real basis to make the claim. But there are those who do have experienced the injustice of having been victimized. After all the money spent and the sweat, tears and sometimes even blood that they have shed, losing candidates do have a right to cry for justice if they feel aggravated. Of course, that right is accompanied by the obligation and responsibility to justify their claim.

Automation of the counting seems to be our placebo, with the quick reporting of results lulling us into the belief that cheating has been eradicated in the country. We must remember that the PCOS machines did not wipe away from this earth those whose objectives are to be able to make the elections have a predetermined outcome and benefit from that ability, whether to earn money or win a position. The PCOS machine did not drive away the evil mind which will use its creativity to attain its ends.

Let me state for the record that I am all for automation. I was one of those who supported and pushed for the passage of the automation law and am grateful to have been part of the Congress which passed it.

Cheating in elections has always been driven by the intentions of men, not the abilities of the system. The manual system or the automated system are just neutral tools to be used to achieve the goal of recording the votes. It is the human hand behind the tool which will determine if it will be a tool for evil or righteousness.

While I am not casting doubt on the integrity of the Commisison on Elections’ present commissioners and officials, let us not forget that history has shown us that evil intent knows no boundaries and may penetrate even the high levels of leadership. It is up to us whether we allow that to prosper or not. As another cliché goes, all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

In conclusion, let me restate that I have moved on as far as my candidacy is concerned. In fact, I am looking forward to the future and will prepare for the next challenge by looking back to the past to review where I made mistakes in order to learn from them.

It is in the same vein that I am hoping we are not overwhelmed by the euphoria of the quick election results and lulled into a sense of security that henceforth, cheating has been rendered extinct.

Now is the time for us to thoroughly review this automated election system. Every observation of a flaw, whether real or perceived, should be looked into. Complaints of cheating using the system, whether believable or not, should be given the benefit of close scrutiny and not mere dismissal. Because if we fail to ensure that this system is cured of any flaw, then we will all be guilty of passing on a legacy of flawed elections to the next generation.

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