A matter of credibility

THERE are lots of analyses on the processes of the 2019 elections that throw questions on the credibility of the results. We go through this exercise after every polls but nothing is done afterwards. The nation settles down after a while, the winners and the Commission on Elections move on nevertheless. Better luck next time, a senator elect told his critics who claim he is unfit for the job.

As in sports, winning matters, but more than the victory is how the game was played. This is the reason that real sports organizations are very strict in insuring the credibility of the contests and when it was shown that victory was won by cheating, the athletes were stripped of the honor.

In the election the stakes are very high, the more reason for strictness in the credibility of the process. In countries where democracy truly reigns and governments are honest, the electoral process cannot but be honest as well. When dishonesty is shown, the government falls either through mass movements or voluntary resignation. Revolutions erupt due to dishonesty of the government.

That is not so in this country. The winners, by hook or by crook, refuse to give way and in fact consider their ill-gotten victory as an inherent right and with enough inducements and propaganda make the people reluctantly and fatally yield. And so the vicious circus is repeated in all our elections since this country became independent.

We had one instance when the people refused to accept the result of the election and overthrew President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 who served a “spectacular” and longest, twenty years. It was not directly due to the election but the years of festering protests against the dictatorial regime that tried to validate its rule through an election that was so one-sided that the Filipinos could no longer tolerate and rose in mass protest.   

Last Monday’s election was reported to be relatively peaceful. We had only the Escalante and Magallon killings but the people there voted overwhelmingly for the victims, an expression of disgust and anger. But they were the exception.

Most people and the culprits know to have happened in the last poll – massive vote buying. Over P21 million was seized in different parts of the country. In Bacolod, the buying price had reached P1,500 with P1,000 as most common. Photos of one thousand peso bills stapled on a list of candidates had been confiscated but the police did not reveal whose names were on them. Why?

Because of the widespread vote buying, the credibility of the elections is tarnished. In Bacolod the ruling Grupo Progreso almost got what it wanted, but that was a victory won at a great price of the millions actually spent not just for legal campaigning but buying of votes. Indeed, the transactions were too open, unafraid and shameless.

In the past the vote buyers sought out who to buy; this time the vote sellers lined up without qualms and the buyers were giving out money like it was payday.

So for Grupo Progreso to claim an unprecedented victory is misleading. It was “unprecedented” only because it was unequaled in unabashed vote buying. Where is honor there? Theirs is a pyrrhic victory, though the expenses will be recovered quickly because of its control of the Sanggunian. Indeed, the expenses must be recovered to prepare for the next vote buying spree that would surely be more expensive because now the voters know GP will spare no peso to get elected. The vicious circle turns.

A Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting member commented after the election that “the people have spoken.” Either she was asleep during the election or stayed inside an office oblivious of what was taking place under their noses. If anything spoke that day, it was dirty money that corrupted the people glad to be corrupted.

It is said that if you vote for a clown, expect a comedy; if you elect a corrupt government, expect corruption – ad nauseam. The citizens were fried on their own oil.

Many candidates did not buy votes believing there are good citizens wanting an honest and efficient government. They lost, a lady lamented, but I replied, “They won because they kept their integrity”. They waged a good campaign and did not sell their souls and thousands were with them. There’s always hope.