Philippine Elections will stop being a sham when voters wisen up

Filipinos can only stand back and watch in awe at how the Americans conduct their successful Presidential election. Less than a day after the US Presidential election, the winner could be declared without a hitch and without much contention from the losing candidate. Months of campaigning from both candidates come to an abrupt halt as soon as the winner is announced. It is back to work for everyone in the White House.

The ease with which the US election sailed by so smoothly is not even because they have a computerized voting system. For many decades, US elections have always come and gone with hardly any drama. It’s just another walk in the park for people who follow a system that works. In relative terms, there’s hardly any cheating that would cause the sorts of delays that could put entire institutions in doubt.

In contrast, even the Philippines’ very first computerized election in 2010 was fraught with allegations of fraudulent activities as reported by some of the members of the local and international community who participated and observed the election.

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As mentioned in my previous article immediately after the 2010 election, foreign observers concluded that there was massive cheating involved in the first ever-automated Presidential election. Apart from the problems encountered with the machines, there were other elements whose presence was questionable considering they should not have been in the polling stations in the first place. Observers witnessed a chaotic scene with strong military presence and lots of instances of intimidation in and around the polling stations.

One international observer who was assigned at the Pampanga and Tarlac region even specifically mentioned that intimidation was rampant in Hacienda Luisita, the hometown of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino. These were observations made by outsiders who are completely unbiased. It is incomprehensible why our public officials allow these things to happen. This is why until now there are still some people who question the legitimacy of President BS Aquino’s win.

The following is a summary of their observation all throughout the country:

Serious and systematic irregularities:

– Vote buying
– People lining up outside the candidate’s house waiting to receive cash or goods
– There was no privacy in the polling stations
– People could see what the voter is writing
– The ballot sheet could not be folded to cover the information
– There were voters who were not stamped with indelible ink
– There were voters who were stamped with ink before voting
– There were people taking pictures and videos of voters for intimidation purposes
– Police and military presence was strong.

Despite reports of massive election fraud, majority of Filipinos don’t seem inclined to do or don’t even want to know anything about them. The Commissions on Elections (Comelec) and President BS Aquino’s media cohorts were quick to declare the election a success. They wanted everyone to think that the first automated voting system delivered as expected and that Aquino’s win was a decisive one.

Unfortunately, we will never know the truth. Filipinos will always be in the dark as to what truly happened because they chose to ignore boring details. Filipinos have this tendency to just listen to what the Philippine media is telling them. The Filipino people’s preference for turning a blind eye to impropriety is what’s preventing our country from moving forward. It is turning the Philippines into a nation of cheaters. The irony is that we cry foul after a bad deed is done but we ignore the deed as it transpires. It seems we don’t want the inconvenience of having to deal with the fallout of reporting a crime in progress.

We don’t even have protection for whistleblowers. Instead of commending people for their bravery in coming forward, Filipinos turn against the whistleblowers, making them look like they are making mountains out of molehills. People who are seen supporting the whistleblowers are considered “sore losers”. This discourages people from doing the right thing. Vigilance against crime is what will actually foster an environment of trust in our society. If we know that illegal activities are not tolerated, we can be assured that people will be honest with their day-to-day activities.

Sadly, we shun people who go out on a limb to expose corruption or any form of malpractice, but what we need to do is to help promote a society in which it is possible to speak out without reprisal about corruption, dangers to the public and environment, and other vital social issues. Until we change the way we think and do things collectively as a people, we will never have a smooth election like the Americans.

Here are some of the lessons I learned during the 2010 election that could help us in the 2013 Senatorial election and even the 2016 Presidential election:

1. Campaign platforms

No one comes up with a credible platform during elections because voters don’t care about platforms. They cared about Noynoy’s love life and what he does in his spare time.

Voters were also smitten with the “Aquino Legacy” and are convinced that Noynoy will continue whatever it is they think that Ninoy or Cory could have achieved but for whatever reason did not. The voters don’t even have a clue what a platform is. You have to wonder now how they plan to evaluate how Noynoy sticks to his campaign promises during his term of office.

Lesson learned: Most Filipino voters are star-struck ignoramuses. If you want to run for the presidency in 2016, get an image makeover or try to appear “good” and “humble”.

2. Surveys and Polling firms

Some Filipinos were dumb enough to think that if a candidate is popular, it means that he should be voted in as president. The fact of the matter is, candidates with a lot funds can hire polling firms and publish reports when it is favorable to them. It was also reported that polling firms conducting the surveys in 2010 were closely linked to the presidential candidate leading the polls. Likewise, despite the number of candidates allowed to run, people were actually just choosing between two candidates.

Lesson learned: Next election, call for more transparency around poll survey questionnaires; clamor for more polling firms to conduct surveys and be vigilant and critical of Media’s interpretation of the poll results.

3. Media Bias

Noynoy Aquino was given more exposure by prominent media outlets like the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the campaign period. It didn’t matter how trivial the news was; Noynoy Aquino was always on the front page. Broadcast networks such as ABS-CBN also helped expose Noynoy to the masa through shows that flagged the “Aquino Legacy”.

Lesson learned: Media outlets owned and operated by members of the Philippine oligarchy will give more exposure to whoever presidential candidate offers concessions they can benefit from.

4. Religious endorsements

A week before Election Day, the leader of Iglesia ni Cristo announced that they will be endorsing presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. It has been said that this religious group actually waits for the last minute before announcing their endorsement because they want to ensure that whoever they endorse actually wins — presumably with the aim of making a few deals with the president once in office. It was also said that Noynoy’s party was secretly courting that leader’s guarantee that the INC votes will be in their favor.

Lesson learned: The endorsement of religious leaders depends on which candidate is popular; religious leaders can make or break a presidential aspirant; Filipinos will vote for whoever their religious leaders instruct them to vote for.

5. Election Day thugs and vote buying

It seems that all of the above exercise with the possible exception of item number four will have no bearing on Election Day to the majority of voters because of the presence of thugs in the polling stations. As previously mentioned, police and military personnel who have no business being in polling stations and who are under the payroll of candidates, hang around to intimidate voters. If the Police and the military themselves are involved in this illegal behavior, to whom can the voters report the irregularity to?

The illegal activity called vote buying involves the buyer and the seller. They both are accountable for their actions. In this case, both parties won’t be willing to report each other because they both benefit from the activity. Unfortunately, the voter who sells his vote will only benefit in the short term.

Lesson learned: As long as irregularities like this happens on Election Day, any efforts at educating the voters will just go down the drain.

6. Automated Machines

It turns out that automated machines are not foolproof. Reports abound of machines malfunctioning, machines found kept in someone’s shed, the discrepancies in time lapsed, and allegations of malicious software installed in the machine itself.

Lesson learned: Filipinos cannot be trusted with both manual and automated election. Filipinos are very resourceful at finding a way to cheat.

Lastly, here is the bottom-line: Filipinos are ultimately to blame for allowing fraudulent activities to happen. Politicians will keep trying to get away with cheating but it is up to us to decide if we will let them.

31 Replies to “Philippine Elections will stop being a sham when voters wisen up”

  1. Once again a great article which addresses the apathy that I seem to be finding and experiencing in this culture which is really sad. Even when it comes to National and local laws folks seem to see them as suggestions and from my experience choose to ignore them regardless if they can be prosecuted for violating them or not and this is due to the law being poorly enforced or not enforced at all.

    This apathy seems to run deep in this culture and perhaps the more folks like yourself write about different social, political and economic situations and circumstances and can show your countrymen and women the problems which stifle and prevent them form growth and change, from the self imprisonment of their hearts and minds to the rut of mediocrity!

    I believe the hope is in the youth of this country as it is perhaps in most, they are curious, open,want straight answers and deserve that yet perhaps the old cultural traditions from elders and parents have kept them in the dark so-to-speak, that instead of truth and facts they are told half truths and perhaps even lies just to keep them under the control of the old ways. I believe the youth of this nation are hungry for change in positive ways and hold the power to effect that change if they will educate and inform themselves and when possible break free of the chains of the past and tradition and think creatively, openly, and be the voices to hold themselves as well as their fellow countrymen and women accountable in all ways.

    I hope that they will read and hear those voices like yourself and open their minds and hearts and act upon what they read, hear ans see as they go through their Voyager of life and and know within that they can effect change and be the hope for the future.

    Thanks for being just one of those voices!


    1. It is conventional wisdom to blame individual apathy for the election related problems and the worsening quality of Filipino leaders. However, it seems to me to be too simplistic to be the answer to why events turn out the way they do. Yes voter apathy is evident in our society. Ever wonder why that is true? Ever consider why it is true now as it was 20-30 years ago when the generation under Ferdinand Marcos just freed from the dictator said “I believe the hope is in the youth of this country?”

      Ever wonder why for such an apathetic culture, most if not every Filipino that works OUTSIDE the Philippines seems to exhibit a pro-active attitude to working and life in general? Ever wonder why the youth that are the hope of the country eventually become apathetic drones or at best empty, vacuous copies of American reality TV personalities?

      Its not about being lazy. ITS ABOUT NOT HAVING ANYTHING TO BELIEVE IN. Like
      virtually all former Spanish colonies, Filipinos have no concept of a nation outside of the individual strongman’s clan/family subjugating as many of its neighbors as possible.

      Think about it. Filipinos revolted from Spain and immediately we degenerated into infighting. If it weren’t for the entry of another colonial power — America — family-based factions would still be fighting over territory and massacring their rivals.

      With the Americans no longer in charge, families and their political affiliates engage in brutal rivalries (Think Maguindanao). But ask any Filipino what they stand for you won’t get a clear answer that doesn’t sound canned.

      There’s your problem.

      So — anybody out there with an ideal we can believe in?

    2. Ken,

      Your comment –

      “I believe the youth of this nation are hungry for change in positive ways and hold the power to effect that change if they will educate and inform themselves and when possible break free of the chains of the past and tradition and think creatively, openly, and be the voices to hold themselves as well as their fellow countrymen and women accountable in all ways.”

      He he he…

      The youth are liberals…

      (And the masa are stupid!)

      Take for example the last Phil presidential election. There were Gibo, and Gordon or even Villar as potential choices due to their background.

      ‘Langya, this stupid Penoy was voted landslide.

      The liberals and stupid masa.

      (Just like in the US of A. The youth, minorities, Hollywooders, food stampers, and the no IDs and also the idiots elected Obama. Not the Americans. The real Americans).

      1. I don’t have much hope for the kids these days to be honest. Every night I see internet cafes packed full of kids shouting their lungs out at each other talking trash about the other’s skill at DOTA or cursing about their mothers. During weekends I see jeepney drivers taking their sons out to work with them, these kids learn how to drive from these maniacs. I see barkers doing this too with their children. Now you have 4ft barkers with their shirts off yelling at passengers to ride this and that, taking change from jeepney drivers for their ‘service’. People see this and they aren’t appalled. During one of my routine commutes to the univ I saw the same kid wearing a school uniform, he was wearing the same necklace that was sold by the vendor near by and that’s how I knew it was the same kid. Apparently this kid was receiving education. I see kids the same age spitting on the pavement, walking like some ‘siga’. They are loud and have no decency in public. Some of these kids I see are with their parents mind you. You often see young girls dressed like the dancers in showtime. Young girls nowadays don’t look and act their age and it shouldn’t be. I am worried about the upbringing the young ones receive today, and there are a lot of them. I could see that the delinquents in the streets doubling by the time I’m in my 30s. Someone has to do something about this, the youth need to be protected from wrong upbringing and dumb television.

        I’m currently switching to a Film course. Its been my dream to attend film school and recently my pursuit has been boosted by the want for change. Some years ago I realized that I could use my talents to shed light on issues our countrymen are blind too. The screen is a powerful nation building tool that isn’t tapped by people in the position who could do so, instead its abused by trashy movies and actors that are insulting to people who think. I hope to change all this with some partners who share my vision, I also hope we are not too late. What we need are films that are relevant to social issues. They don’t have to be dragging narratives and long documentaries, they could still be comedy, action, suspense, science fiction, but at least they would be directed towards making the audience think and question all that’s happening around them instead of being apathetic. One good film can inspire a generation or spark a trend, we could direct that trend towards generating ideas and solutions that we need. Think of what films and media could do if only they were products of dreamers like most of us here at GRP.

        1. Not to discount your dream but mine has always been to have more people become engineers.

          That way we wouldn’t have to dream; there’d actually be a segment of society that can conceptualize ideas and build them.

  2. even when the elections are not yet over we can see the maturity of the candidates– a loss is a loss and they concede accordingly. Do most of our candidates concede accordingly? No, they complain accordingly.

  3. You could add COMELEC double standards in approving or disqualifying partylists. Take the case of the ANAD Partylist. ANAD is an anti-communist partylist that exposes the evils of Maoist communism. They have a lot of marginalized followers and supporters who reject the cause of the CPP-NPA-NDF and its legal support fronts. Mr. Sixto Brilliantes recently disqualified ANAD while he continues favoring legal support fronts of the CPP-NPA-NDF. Representative Jun Alcover will appeal his case before the Supreme Court.

  4. What we have is a feudal system masquerading as a democracy. Elections only serve to give feudal lords a semblance of legitimacy. Despotic regimes also hold “elections” to legitimize their stay in power. The 2010 Philippine general elections showed that the voting patterns didn’t change at all. The technology advanced but not the people.

    1. You’re right about how things never change. But it isn’t feudalism.

      Technically, the concept of feudalism is applicable only in a European context. The term often (wrongly) gets applied to non-European societies where the attitudes of the people or the institutions of that society seem to be similar to medieval France or England.

      As a political system the Philippine context doesn’t even come close.

      By its very nature, European feudalism entails a mutual obligation on the part of the ruler and the ruled as a way of structuring the society. The social contract involves reciprocal obligations: servitude and labor on the part of the vassal in exchange for the usage of a portion of land, a resource formally granted by a lord who in turn provided both military protection and other non-military services for the fiefdom over which he ruled. Obligations and rights (yes, they each had rights) were formally specified and everybody had an idea of where each party stood on any given matter in the relationship.

      In the Philippines, Spain’s intention was to take stuff and bring it all home. And fill the coffers of Spain. There was NO intention of allowing a system whereby the ruled could ever have the same rights as a Spaniard. (A sub-human species being granted equal rights? Preposterous!) And the laws used to administer the archipelago reflect this. Everything is one-sided in favor of Spanish citizens and business interests. Even religious teachings were designed to indoctrinate the locals into acquiescing to Spanish rule. Backed up by the military. Indigenous Filipinos had virtually no rights. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the archipelago got opened up to the idea that maybe what the Spanish were selling wasn’t exactly how it ought to be. And that gave rise to all sorts of revolutionary movements.

      Unfortunately after hundreds of years of indoctrination, it seems the best Filipino revolutionary leaders could come up with was to merely replace their Spanish masters with their own. Essentially they ended up lording it over their followers in the same way the Spanish colonizers did.

      And that is the legacy of today’s political dynasties. A bunch of privileged leeches who rely on intimidation and the threat of violence to impose their will on others around them for the benefit of a selected oligarchy. Usually with a cult of personality that deludes their followers into thinking they only have the people’s interests at heart.

      But regardless of what you call it, they make me sick.

    1. @Hyden Toro

      I was reading the broadsheet of the Philippine Star early this morning. Two opinions on PCOS. One from Bobit S. Avila,(“Now, about that Smartmatic warning”) and another from Carmen N. Pedrosa, (“Damning evidence against Smartmatic PCOS”). I was trying to post links but could not find them. I guess they can be read only in the broadsheet format. Ilda, you should read both opinions. It appears that PCOS and the COMELEC is part of the big problem.

  5. Of presidents and stooges

    Obama works to stop US going over a fiscal cliff

    Hu jintao warns that growing inequality must not take china over a social cliff

    P-noy drives philippine democracy to the edge of a political cliff

  6. AbNoy is, thus far, the end-result of the triumph of all that is shameful, dirty, & twisted in pinoy politics over genuine decency, excellence, & the common good. This is all thanks to both the soulless opportunists supporting (and benefitting from) AbNoy’s presidency and the utter foolishness of those starstruck ignoramuses who left it to ABS-CBN & other media personalities to do the thinking and decision-making for them.

  7. Immature Conduct of Philippine politics and the general attitude of mostly of us is like the schools bullies and then complicated by the irresponsible parents as it happens lately.

    What is happening with our election process is a direct reflection of our nasty attitude in competition. It is called sportmanship.

  8. Good and well written summary.

    The underlying and overriding question is what type of society does the philippines want to be, and what type of society is this administration trying to create. The 2 would seem to be almost diammetrically opposed with the govt hypocritically saying one thing to calm the masses, but in practice doing another.

    On the spectrum
    Open or closed
    Individualism or collectivism
    Democracy or autocracy
    Inclusive or exclusive
    Progressive or repressive.

  9. “Lesson learned: Filipinos cannot be trusted with both manual and automated election. Filipinos are very resourceful at finding a way to cheat.”

    Does that mean, hypothetically, that Filipinos and elections cannot mix? Since Filipinos have a tendency to game the system, what would they do if the system ceased to be. Back to the hypothetical, what if elections that are hopelessly easy to manipulate are abolished?

  10. Irrelevant point as there are few choices when it comes to candidates. All of them basically have the same economic policies.

    The same goes for many other countries.

  11. what will happen if half of the percentage of the voters in the future are members of bl0c-voting religions like the INC and the rest?

    We’re still going to have elections but it will no longer make sense.

  12. Hi Ilda,

    I have some news that you might be interested of writing about. It’s about the Iglesia Ni Cristo leadership. I currently reside in Seattle, WA. Whenever I wanted to hear unbiased news about a certain topic I tuned in by reading blogs at GetRealPhilippines.
    I am not sure if you still remember me, we did have some exchange of ideas in the past regarding the INC charity walks that took place after the typhoon Yolanda.
    Anyway, here is the scoop. If you think that this is news worthy I encourage you or your colleagues to write about it. It about “Corruption of Ministers inside the INC Hierarchy” They call themselves “The Sangunian” led by Glicerio Jun Santos (General Auditor of the INC) he handles all financial transactions inside and outside of the church. Eduardo V. Javier is the (District Minister Southern Midwest-based in USA) – his hedge man.
    I am still active member of the INC and I have not gone “Roque” The one that most members and I are against is some of the Ministers and Hierarchy of the INC located in Central office became dishonest and corrupt. Confirmed reports said ever since our previous leader Bro. Erano Manalo died in 2008, Bro. Eduardo Manalo seem to lost control of his ministers.
    You might have recognized their names;
    Glicerio Jun Santos – General Auditor of the INC – he is the head of The Group called “Sangunian” He is also the man who is responsible for striking a deal with the Korean Company ( the company who built the Philippine Arena)
    Bienvenido Santiago – former spokesperson of the INC
    Radel Cortez – General Secretary of the INC
    Eduardo Javier – District Minister of Southern Midwest.
    Roland Esguerra-
    Ilda, if you think this is news worthy I encourage you to pursue it. This will become big news within the INC. Here is the link written by Antonio Ebangeslista (alias name). He is the so-called mole inside the Sanguanian Group. He is one of our Ministers based in Central Office. Please take time to read his articles. Be patience. The more you read them. It will start making sense to you. Sooner or later you will get a good grasp of what is happening behind close door of the INC. I am sharing this information to you not to discredit the INC. I’m writing this because I am against corruption inside the INC. I felt bad for those members who wholeheartedly give their own money ether rich, the poor and the average person who has no knowledge that unfortunate events is currently happening inside the core of the INC.
    Here is the link

    MArk JOn

    1. Just because one thinks (or made to think)that your church is holy, it is free from any vices of wrongdoings/corruption in its internal affairs. Remember, ministers still poop. They are humans. They may appear well-groomed to your sight, holier-than-though as they rant the Bible, but it doesn’t make them holy. Only their asses think so.

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