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ROUGH CUTS | Finding a meaning of this adage

“Damn if you do; damn if you don’t.”
This old-age adage seems to fit quite well with the nature of certain sectors among Filipinos if we have to apply this to accepting results of elections. In previous electoral exercises including those held during the so-called manual counting era, delays in the completion of the transmittal and tabulation of votes and in the proclamation of winning candidates were already a source of huge apprehension among those who either stand to benefit or be adversely affected by the situation.
Candidates then were apprehensive that the time lapse was the most convenient way to tamper the result to favor certain parties. And somehow, there were incidents that validated the people’s suspicion. This experience was the compelling reason why the government eventually moved to the computerization of the electoral system which started only some five local and national elections ago.
The government’s migration to the more sophisticated and less manually intervened counting of votes, however, while strongly appreciated by the electorate, remains subject to suspicion of its vulnerability to some kind of technically driven manipulation. The doubting Thomases’ fear is heightened by the thought that this could work in favor of any one party or parties especially those who can afford the services of the best skilled, the brightest and scheming computer genius – one who is willing to compromise his or her talent in exchange for money or loyalty.
It is this character of us Filipinos that somehow gives the most fitting meaning of the earlier-mentioned adage. Yes, the government had to spend a huge amount of money just to jumpstart the computerization of the election processes. It is this move that was adopted by government through the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to help assuage the fears of the electorate that the long processes in the manual counting, transmittal of election returns and the official canvassing can become the instrument to subvert the will of the majority.
Initially the modernization of the system got a humongous acceptance by the people regardless of party affiliation. The move was extolled as a “game changer” by either the voters or the candidates and parties. Who will not when the winners are known in only one or two days’ time? But the highly partisan nature in us Filipinos did not take long to go back to our suspicious ways. The continuous upgrading of the capabilities of the computers and improvement in the skills of those tasked to man the machines, allowed the consolidation and/or aggregation of votes in minutes only or as soon as the figures are feed on the computers.
Without doubt it is this quick transmittal and consolidation of votes that were assumed by the partisan voters to be the most likely factors that changed the figures in the Marcos Jr. and Leni Robredo contest for the Vice Presidency in 2016. The lead of Marcos Jr. then that was over half a million shortly before midnight in that election in 2016 was overtaken by almost the same number by Robredo by dawn break. Robredo’s slim lead continued until the last ballot was counted. Marcos Jr. immediately suspected of getting cheated by his opponent, initially pointing to the possible interference in the electronically counted votes. So he demanded a recount through the legal means – by lodging a formal electoral protest in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). He eventually lost.
Now we have to move fast forward to the 2022 national and local elections. Despite the seemingly continued mistrust of certain sector on the integrity of the computerization processes, the COMELEC did everything to implement the improvement of the system as transparent as possible. It cannot be denied that in all the activities that the agency did to execute the various aspects of the computerization processes of the elections the most critical among stakeholders, specifically the political parties, were invited to witness and make recommendations to further enhance the system.
Of course despite the rigid machine tests and trainings of those who are to man the equipment, glitches still occurred on the day of the election. But the percentage of the glitches was declared by the poll body through its experts as far from significant to affect adversely the overall result of the elections.
And as expected, the upgrade in the system allowed the consolidation and transmittal of the election returns to the national monitoring units of both the COMELEC and the election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting or PPCRV in less than an hour after the precincts nationwide closed. And by 12 midnight of May 9, 2022, the Filipino nation already knew who were winning among the candidates in both national and local polls.
This development was supposed to be a source of pride for us Filipinos for having achieved the fastest main election activities. – the very thing that has long been desired by everyone. But wait; the opposition ranks that have been at the forefront in espousing for a clean and honest polls through computerization are now complaining. They are suspicious of the speed in the transmittal and the huge lead by the front running candidates. Its leaders who now appear to be the top instigators of discord, are noisily claiming the speed was unusual and that this could have been a product of technical manipulation to favor the leading aspirant for the Presidency, Vice Presidency, and the Senate as well.
Now we are starting to believe a post in social media we read only a few days ago and supposedly coming from the Queen of Great Britain, Queen Elizabeth II. In that post the Lady Monarch was quoted as saying that “The problem with the Philippines is not with its government; Rather the problem is with the Filipino people.”
We initially took the statement allegedly by the revered queen as one among the “fakes” proliferating in the social media these days. But then with what is happening in this post-election time in the country with most of the opposition advocates for modernization doubting the outcome of the system they so badly wanted done by government, we cannot help but cautiously believe the applicability to our situation the true meaning of the adage…
“Damn if you do; damn if you don’t.”
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