Buencamino does political affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 9, 10 May 2004 edition.

“Walang mang-uutak kung walang tanga”. – Unknown

I share the hope expressed in this paper’s Friday editorial “that presidential elections be finally what they need to be, here as in the United States: the battle of the brains.” We really should move away from “utakan” to brains.

Our elections, like those in the United States, have always been about utakan.Winners in both countries are more often than not, those who
successfully bought, lied, cheated, and stole their way to victory. The only exceptions to this rule are Cory and Erap.

In the 2000 American presidential election, Florida’s “hanging chad” vote grabbed the world’s attention. But “hanging chads” were not the real story in Florida.

Those faulty ballots were not even in George W. Bush’s game plan.

Instead, Bush had a game plan that involved purging tens of thousands of blacks and Hispanics from Florida’s voting lists. Its roots date to 1998 when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was running for reelection, launched a program to disenfranchise voters who were likely to vote against him— meaning, blacks and Hispanics.

Florida has a law that denies former convicts the right to vote; however Florida courts have ruled that Florida citizens who have been convicted in other states and whose voting rights have been restored by those states may not be prohibited from voting in Florida. Nevertheless, voters’lists were “scrubbed” indiscriminately. Well, not so indiscriminately if the voter was not black or Hispanic.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast cites a typical example of a voter who was scrubbed from the list, he says ” Thomas Cooper is on the list : criminal scum, bad guy, felon, attempted voter. The Harris (Florida secretary of state) list says Cooper was convicted of a felony on January 30, 2007. 2007??? ” The only thing that Harris got right about Cooper was his race—black.

Thus, tens of thousands of black and Hispanic voters were disenfranchised in this manner by Republican-controlled Florida. Al Gore got 90 percent of all the blacks who were permitted to vote so it would not be too much of a stretch to assume that he would have garnered as much from the disenfranchised voters.Bush won the state and consequently the electoral vote by less than a thousand votes. Were it not for the scrubbed voters lists and the timely intervention of a Supreme Court who ruled as wisely as the Philippine Supreme Court in the Velarde versus Pidal case, Bush would be branding cows in Crawford, Texas instead of sitting in the White House savoring pictures of sodomized Iraqi prisoners. Utakan nga, eh.

Meanwhile the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) reported that in Legaspi City, the President was wooing the Bicol vote by citing the soaring price of copra , she said , “Not double, or treble, or quadruple but tenfold has the price of copra risen under my term.” .

The OPS report adds, ” She feels she can ask them to vote for Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan para sa Kinabukasan (K-4) because it is responsible for the increase in the price of copra…the President said.”

Copra is processed into coconut oil. It competes in a huge market of coconut and other oils derived from plants like soybean, palm, corn, seeds etc. Many years ago, Ferdinand Marcos was told that the Philippines controlled something like 80 percent of the world coconut oil market. Marcos, who was probably impressed by the power of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to control oil prices, decided to form his own little coconut-oil cartel. Somebody forgot to tell him that his controlling 80 percent was less than five percent of the entire vegetable oil market. Not only that, he was also not told that other plant oils can be used in place of coconut oil.

But in Albay, President Arroyo claimed that she and the K-4 were responsible for the tenfold increase in the price of copra. More important, President Arroyo heads a team endowed with a special power. The K4 can travel through time!

Proof of that power to travel back in time is the fact that K4, which only came into being a few months ago, was equally responsible for raising the price of copra during her three-year term. “She feels she can ask them to vote for Koalisyon ng Katapatan at Karanasan para sa Kinabukasan (K-4) because it is responsible for the increase in the price of copra…”

Mga tanga naman, eh, bebenta na iyan.