Ugliness All Around

Buencamino does political affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 9, 4 June 2004 Edition.

When I’m working on a problem, I never think about Beauty, I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. – R. Buckminster Fuller

The government’s problem is how to make Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s victory credible. The solution has been far from beautiful. Credit for the ugliness can be shared equally between GMA’s people and her sympathizers.

SWS conducted an exit poll to inform the public at the earliest possible time who would be the country’s next president. However, in the course of conducting the exit poll, SWS discovered and, to its credit, revealed that at least 900,000 voters were disenfranchised. As a result, the public began to wonder whether those voters were intentionally disenfranchised by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to benefit GMA.

The National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) was accused of trending for GMA and was called upon by its allies to “open its books.” Instead, Guillermo Luz called the suggestion “stoopid.” People know that Luz adores GMA, so his response did not help Namfrel or GMA.

The Comelec gagged ABC TV’s unofficial tally. The Justice Department followed suit by reminding media of a law prohibiting the publication of false information. Both organizations inadvertently planted doubts about their motives and led the public to wonder why a competing count was suppressed.

Shortly after gagging ABC TV, an un-gagged Comelec chairman leaked to the press that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo won the presidency. Protests about the leak’s impropriety notwithstanding, a Comelec official immediately came to the Comelec chairman’s defense and said, ” What is there to leak? That is an open secret. In other words, Chair Abalos has not committed any offense.” In other words, the Comelec wants the public to believe that it is in no danger of receiving false information from them because, as everyone knows, the Comelec is honest and impartial. (The reader may be excused for gagging on this one.)

Meanwhile, Speaker Jose de Venecia and Senate President Frank Drilon devised a procedure to quick-canvass the votes. The opposition accused both men of “railroading” the process. In response to the opposition
and to avoid being accused of being overly eager to proclaim GMA, the duo proposed a compromise. It was agreed that a 48-hour period for debate would be allowed before the train leaves the station for good.

While debate on the canvass procedure was going on, Today reported that
Malacanang announced the release of Congressional pork barrel “as soon as the President is proclaimed winner.” Presidential spokesman Bunye moved quickly to dispel any suspicions about the timing of the announcement by saying, “We are not involved in any form of horse-trading in the midst of the transitory standoff in the legislature.” One sincerely hopes so because 35 million pesos for each of the 225 congressmen means paying seven billion eight hundred seventy five million pesos for a horse.

From the dark side, the intelligence arms of the military and the police raised the communist bogey once again and warned that any sort of planned civic action protesting the election results would be considered “destabilizing.” The military and the police are probably not aware or don’t care that the Edsa alternative enshrined in the Constitution is for all Filipinos. Most likely, they think Edsa is reserved for the goody-goody society. The goody-goodies have been silent lately. Their silence, especially over the disenfranchisement of
about a million voters, is not unusual, because the goody-goodies are notorious for their selective application of fair-play rules.

The problem for the opposition is how to look good in defeat. They are wrong to believe they can salvage their loser image by discrediting GMA’s narrow victory. They should know that we know that they knew all along what it took to win a presidential election, yet they failed to win, anyway. Thus, the solution for saving what’s left of the opposition’s face is not to tarnish GMA’s looming victory. That solution is as ugly as the attempts to varnish her victory.

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