Thunderous triumph of People Power

DESPITE THE SWELTERING KILOMETRIC queues, technical glitches, carelessness, mismanagement and other booboos of Comelec and Smartmatic, our people persevered. Human frailties and technological hitches could not stop the thunderous Noynoy landslide.

New manifestation of People Power. Our first nationwide automated election is a resounding triumph of People Power of the strict constitutional genre. Our people opted for a peaceful transition of power, no longer by staging mammoth street rallies, but by pouring a massive electoral mandate on their new leader.

People Power 1 was “extra constitutional.” Cory Aquino succeeded to the 1986 presidency outside the pale of the Constitution then; in fact, her government was “revolutionary” in character. Though the Supreme Court (Estrada vs Desierto, March 1, 2001) ruled that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ascended legitimately via the “intra constitutional” People Power 2, many constitutionalists still contest the legitimacy of her ascension in 2001. In contrast, the 2010 People Power 3 catapults Noynoy Aquino with unquestioned constitutionality.

This new genre of People Power is embodied in the 1987 Constitution of Cory. Fittingly, it ushers the presidency of her son. The thunderous landslide gives him a clear head start to begin his reform program. Noynoy’s overwhelming mandate assures public support to his agenda of change. It gives him enormous clout to transform our savaged democratic institutions immediately.

As I anticipated in several columns, the clustering of the precincts precipitated long lines that were caused mainly by the logistical miscalculation of assigning only one Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and one PCOS machine to 1,000 voters. My wife and I arrived at our voting center before 7 a.m. Yet, there were over 20 voters ahead of us. We lined up patiently and were able to vote after 45 minutes. It turned out we were lucky. Other people, including Noynoy, sweated many hours to cast their ballots.

Just how many were actually disenfranchised, how many could not stand the heat or could not wait because of other commitments may never be accurately counted. Just how many votes were wasted because of PCOS machine malfunction, oval misalignment, ballot rejection and printing errors may no longer be precisely known.

Similarly, just how the inadequate training of the BEIs, the insufficiency of the Comelec instructions and the scanty education of voters impacted on the results; just how many were not able to vote because of their exclusion from the voters’ list; and just how many candidates have been denied victory due to disenfranchisement may no longer be exactly determined. (I agree though with Sen. Jamby Madrigal that these puzzles must still be investigated.)

Mischief-makers deterred. No matter, the many who were able to vote gave Noynoy a phenomenal landslide. They prevented mischief-makers from manipulating the results and discouraged cheaters from plying their trade. Our people gave him so huge a margin that could not be overcome by cheating. Indeed, those who wanted to corrupt our succession rules via the holdover scenario, or worse via military rule, were overwhelmed by the Noynoy tsunami.

True, the Commission on Elections labored under difficult circumstances. It had less than one year to jump from full manual count to full automated count, a feat never attempted anywhere in the world. However, there were, apart from the unfortunate clustering of precincts, other glaring errors and missteps that could have been easily prevented or avoided.

For example, why did Comelec choose small covers measuring only half the size of the ballots thereby violating the secrecy of the vote? The Inquirer front-page photo catching the ballot of former President Joseph Estrada and exposing his failure to vote for a vice president is a picturesque reminder of this violation. The lack of polling booths that provided voter secrecy was also prevalent. The past Comelecs had their faults too, but none of them overlooked voter privacy.

No transparency of precinct count. Our result-starved people applauded the instant transmission of the results and their immediate media distribution. The parallel counts of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and media outfits like GMA7 and ABS-CBN affirmed the count. Note, however, that all these automated results came from the same election returns spewed out by the PCOS machines at the clustered precincts.

They do not explain how the PCOS machines counted the individual votes. There was no check on how the machines tallied the individual ballots. Remember that the voters were merely told by the machines that their ballots were “scanned” and counted. But there was no proof of how the machines actually tallied them.

Comelec inexplicably disengaged a machine safeguard where a report of the vote would be flashed on the small screen on the PCOS machine. It is only after the voters are satisfied that their ballots had been accurately captured that they would then press a button for the machine to count them.

All in all, I heave a sigh of relief that the worst-case scenarios like a nationwide failure of election, corruption of the source code, holdover presidency and military rule did not come to pass. I hail this new manifestation of People Power and the miraculous start of a peaceful transition of power. May the miracle continue and guide our new president in reinventing a new and better Philippines.

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