Analysis: Postscript to a fraudulent elections

Jun. 12, 2007

The problems characterizing Philippine elections are systemic and the current Comelec cannot be solely faulted for it. But the Comelec of Benjamin Abalos Sr, made it worse in its effort to serve the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and not the Filipino people.

Vol. VII, No. 18, June 10-16, 2007

The smoke of battle of the recently-concluded, hotly-contested May 2007 elections is just about to clear. And the din created by charges of massive fraud and suspicious inefficiency of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) still continues to reverberate. But the conclusions one would arrive at in judging the May 2007 elections are all too familiar: massive fraud including dagdag-bawas (vote shaving-vote padding), violence and political dynasties, and marginalization of the Left.

Perhaps this election is the most observed with the unprecedented number of international observers, both official and independent. The Comelec accredited around 190 and there were more who did not seek accreditation such as the Peoples International Observers Mission. But this did not stop the operators of cheating and the private armies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which acted as the private army of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration from doing their thing. Thus, it came as no surprise when three independent foreign observers came up with the same conclusions. It would take more than foreign observers or computerization to put a stop to the cycle of fraud and violence besetting Philippine elections.


Fraud would be committed for as long as government positions are being used for personal enrichment and aggrandizement through corruption. Why do you think a candidate for a national position is willing to spend millions for campaigning if he does not think he can profit from winning?

In this situation, the incumbent has the advantage of having the whole government machinery and resources at his disposal. While the opposition can buy votes, they cannot outbid the candidate in power. This explains the heated competition between local candidates from Lakas and Kampi, both members of the ruling coalition, over who would get the official endorsement of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The opposition candidate can likewise use his private army to harass his opponent. But the incumbent has the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the AFP, the biggest armed group in the country, on his side.

More so for national candidates for the administration has so many government agencies to source its campaign funds from, thus, the fertilizer scam and PhilHealth cards scandals. It also has the PAGCOR (Philippine Games and Amusement Corporation), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, intelligence funds of the Office of the President, among others. It is also the administration which has control over the Comelec and the canvassers from the municipal up to the national level. And it can use the various agencies such as the Ombudsman, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Justice to harass its opponents just like what happened to Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati who is also president of the United Opposition. In an obvious attempt to break his ability to campaign, he was suspended a week before the elections and all the citys as well as his personal bank accounts were frozen.

Violence and Political Dynasties

Dynasties lorded it over peoples during feudal times. The warlord with the strongest army rules over others by force. The success of his conquest is measured by the vastness of his land. Dynasties are an anachronism and a contradiction to democracy.

But political dynasties continue to lord it over the rural areas of the country because of the monopoly of power and land of a few landlord families. Political dynasties in the provinces are synonymous to or controlled by a few contending landlord families. Thus, while some political dynasties were defeated during the last elections, they were merely replaced by another political dynasty.

Just like their predecessors, the feudal lords, landlord families maintain their power through their armed force – comprised by security guards, private armies, units of the Civilian Auxillary Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) which they fund, and their influence in the local police and local army units – and by exacting blind obedience from their peasants. Normally, they use their armed force against recalcitrant peasants but they also use this against their political enemies especially during elections. Through their armed force and influence over the peasants, they are able to dominate local elections unless challenged by another landlord family. And like their predecessors, they take over positions of local power to protect their interests and expand their land holdings.

Political dynasties would continue to control local politics for as long as there is a monopoly of power and land by a few landlord families. And violence would continue to characterize local elections for as long as landlords have the power.

In urban areas, especially Metro Manila, political families who were able to win and control more than one elected position for a long period of time are not necessarily political dynasties in the true sense of the word. They are able to do so not because of their armed force and feudal hold over voters. It is either they are the better choice among the few who has the resources to run for office or that the former incumbent was so corrupt and inept that the people wanted somebody else to replace him. There are also those who have maintained a loyal following because they were able to come up with programs that benefited a considerable number of people.

Marginalization of the Left

The Left would always be a threat to monopoly interests, whether foreign or local. They are a threat to big multinational corporations for they are against globalization and a not-so-free market economy. They protest against the monopoly of a few corporations in the world economy. I remember a funny comic strip which read, Businesses discovered a third commandment: Thou shall not apply any commandment to any business.

Groups identified with the Left are against the hegemonic designs of world powers such as the U.S.. They are against U.S. wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan, among others. They are against the continuous presence and intervention of U.S. troops in the country.

They are a threat to foreign monopoly corporations and their local counterparts who are controlling the Philippine economy and keeping it in a backward, pre-industrial, and agricultural state. Foreign monopoly corporations keep the economy in its backward state to be able to exploit our natural resources and cheap labor, and to make it dependent on foreign capital and loans. In its stead, the Left is advocating for national industrialization and a self-reliant economy.

The Left is a threat to the monopoly of power and land of a few landlords for they are advocating for a genuine agrarian reform program and rural industrialization.

Thus, the history of the Lefts involvement in national politics is fraught with violence and suppression. The representatives of the Democratic Alliance which won seats in the first Philippine Congress after American direct colonial rule were suspended on charges of terrorism. The Partido ng Bayan (Party of the People) which participated in the 1987 elections was a victim of massive fraud and violence, with many of its members and organizers killed by the state security forces. And now, Bayan Muna Party (People First), Gabriela Womens Party, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Kabataan (Youth), and Suara BangsaMoro Party and their allies in the peoples movement were subjected to the worst forms of political killings and enforced disappearances, harassments, and fraud with the whole machinery of the AFP, PNP, and Comelec trying to shut them out of the May elections. But to no avail.

Hopelessness and Hope

People who become hopeless and cynical to this type of elections are the most vulnerable to vote buying. One cannot fault persons who are unemployed and who only became poorer and poorer regardless of who won in the series of elections for making money out of elections, whether through selling their votes, being flying voters, or getting hired as poll watchers, which was reportedly a new type of vote buying.

It is true that the problems characterizing Philippine elections are systemic and that the current Comelec cannot be solely faulted for it. But the Comelec of Benjamin Abalos Sr, made it worse in its effort to serve the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and not the Filipino people.

But there is also hope. The opposition senatorial candidates and Left party-list groups won in spite of the massive fraud, the violence perpetrated by political dynasties and the AFP, and the use of the whole government machinery and resources by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. Notwithstanding the ruling coalitions dominance in the local elections for there were a few local opposition candidates which made it no less bloody – there is no doubt that the results of the national elections reflected how the Filipino people felt about the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

The Filipino people could expect the same policies and programs to be pursued by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The opposition would constantly haunt the administration on issues of fraud and corruption, and try to block the authoritarian drift of the administration. But both the administration and opposition would agree on the same economic policies and programs that are resulting in worsening poverty and hardships for the majority of the people. The representatives of progressive party-lists are too few to make a difference. They can merely amplify their position on issues.

But then again, as Inquirer columnist Conrad de Quiros aptly puts it in his column on the Supreme Court and democracy, it is the people who make democracy. In the final analysis, it is only the people, mobilized as one big political force, who can really make a difference. Bulatlat

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