This is most commendable. Whether election documents are falsified, votes of candidates are padded or shaved (dagdag-bawas), or whatever other forms of frauds occur, the election officers must be held responsible. It's only when the Commission turns deaf and blind to media reports and complaints that election officers in the field are emboldened to connive with the corrupt.
Finally, it appears, the commissioners have laid down the caveat: The election supervisors are responsible. And, it is hoped, the Commission will not countenance the defiance by the three of its subpoena for them to appear before it – as National Board of Canvassers – at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
This investigation of the frauds in the three Mindanao provinces should just be the beginning of a nationwide crackdown by the Comelec of the frauds that have long bedeviled elections in the Philippines. As reported, there are many more cases that merit investigation.
The summons for the three supervisors – or their arrest if they continue defying orders – is only for them to explain the defects in the CoCs, SoVs or ERs. In the case of Maguindanao, TU did not only have a 12-0 sweep but some GO candidates got zero votes. In the cases of the two Cotabato provinces, the CoCs submitted to the National Board of Canvassers would not match with the SoVs of the municipalities, as noted by GO lawyers.
Also summoned to explain the South Cotabato votes at the NBoC were election officers and members of the municipal and city board of canvassers of South Cotabato and General Santos City (MindaNews, June 1). Thy will be asked "to personally testify (to) the veracity of the certificates of canvass and other related election documents that we had issued and to clarify the reported cases of tampering (of the results)".
Dagdag-bawas is evident in the South Cotabato CoCs as seen in the reports of INQUIRER.net and MindaNews. In Koronadal City, for instance, the increases in the votes of nine TU bets and Loren Legarda, a GO, are all in round figures of thousands. Examples: Edgardo Angara's 20,008 votes were increased to 30,008; Ralp Recto's, 14,506 to 28,506, Legarda's 37,711 to 40,711. The dagdag-bawas was done at the provincial level. Before going to Manila to submit the CoC of the province, Radam – according to Gov. Daisy Fuentes — "made the DepEd representative and the provincial prosecutor sign a blank certificate of canvass" (MindaNews, June 1). The CoC she submitted was clean. Those two members of the provincial board of canvassers should be investigated for signing the blank forms.
Clue to Puzzle
The inroad of "operators" into GO's bailiwicks like South Cotabato or in provinces where GO candidates won even if these had been touted as TU bailiwicks is the clue to Executive Eduardo Ermita's puzzle – why the Opposition keeps on complaining about cheating when they are winning. If they don't complain and just let the Comelec alone, they will wake up the losers.
"Malacañang has asked the Genuine Opposition to stop 'destabilizing the emotions' of the people by depicting a scenario of political crisis over allegations of massive fraud in the May 14 elections," INQUIRER.net reported on May 30. Who is destabilizing the people's emotions?
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo advised TU candidates to "exhaust all legal means" to barge into the Magic 12 (INQUIRER.net, May 30). Instead of conceding, they petitioned the Comelec for a recount of votes in GO bailiwicks or where it won heavily. In fact, at first TU lawyer Romulo Makalintal was reported to have wanted to declare failure of election in Metro Manila.
The President's "advice" to "exhaust all legal means" is multi-edge. Clean dagdag-bawas CoCs like that of South Cotabato would pass off as "legal" if not found to be inconsistent with the copies of the CoCs and SoVs of the Opposition. So "exhaust" encourages dagdag-bawas.
TU senatorial candidate Michael Defensor – at No. 15 – conceded last Wednesday. Part of his statement read: "I concede to ease the tension on the ground and to dismiss (a) notion that there may be illegal acts committed to attain my victory. I concede so as to enjoin my allies and friends who may want, in their desire to have me win, commit acts inimical to the essence of democracy and fair play in an electoral battle." (INQUIRER.net, June 1).
Defensor's statement revealed a lot. His act was admirable and most commendable. He knew there was no more clean and legal way to win. If the other TU candidates and two GOs below him would concede, a lot of tension will be eased. And so it will ease, too, if Miguel Zubiri (13th) and Ralph Recto (14th) would concede as soon as their chances of winning diminished.
The burden of easing tension is not just on GO – in fact, it is more on TU.
GO senatorial candidates, even if they are winning, should be commended for ferreting out dagdag-bawas and other irregularities during the national canvassing. Those who file cases against erring election officials with the Comelec should also be commended. They do so not just to protect their votes but to help cleanse our dirty electoral system.
In fact, even after their proclamation, GO and TU senators should not be contented with their win and forget the cases they had filed against erring election officials. They should not lose interest in pursuing the need to change the undemocratic electoral practices in some provinces in Mindanao as well as in some others in the country.
Vote-buying, cheating and other forms of frauds in our electoral system has worsened because candidates – especially those in Congress – have been just contented in winning and after that they forget and don't bother enacting laws for electoral reforms.
And while it was very well known that the Comelec was rotten, Congress never bothered to impeach the corrupt and incompetent commissioners – perhaps, because many House representatives and senators owed some commissioners some favors.
If the corrupt and incompetent commissioners are impeached after this election, that will be a very positive step toward electoral reforms. That will be most commendable.
("Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards recently honored Mr. Diaz with a "Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You can reach him at [email protected].)