Philippine Elections, May 15, 2013 – Part 1
Professor Gill H. Boehringer
PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS, May 15, 2013 – Part 1
The elections were familiar – cheating of various kinds, massive vote-buying, some violence and other harassment/intimidation, and very familiar candidates elected. Also, personalities not parties, name-recognition not issues. One could basically sum it up: more of the same. Traditional politics Philippine style.
Now, of course, we also have to mention the swindle that has been and continues to be a source of great controversy (one might also say a diversion from other issues never discussed, and a continuing source of media stories). The Smartmatic – supplied PCOS machines – the automatic voting machines of which there are some 78,000. These second hand machines, first leased at great expense for 2010, and subsequently purchased by the COMELEC, have been a problem (local machines not working, failing to transmit votes for the canvas, etc) from the beginning, and an expensive one at that. Nevertheless, the mantra in the media has been overwhelming and constant: yes, some glitches, but fast and acceptably efficient, cutting down on cheating (as far as we know, but transparency is very low.) Though some critics point out that electronic cheating is not impossible; and the public has never been given the whole story on such basic issues as the validity of the “source code” which is the key to the whole operation apparently.
COMELEC remains a highly controversial agency, with cheating groups said to be still deeply entrenched.
Yet certain aspects need to be considered more closely.
All commentators appear to agree that the major dynasties have been tightening their position – “consolidating” was a frequent comment – over the past few elections, and this trend continued with the recent election.
And new ones have been established very significantly at the national level. The major example of this is the Binay clan. Father is Vice president, daughter a Senator (5th place in the national vote seems to be her likely final notch). Son is mayor of the financial powerhouse Makati City. The Vice President will be a major contender, perhaps even front runner, in the race for the Presidency in 2016.
While there are still battles being fought in the provinces, down to the local level, the lessening of violence across the country suggests that the consolidation thesis is accurate. More and careful research would be needed to confirm it, of course. But where there has been the most violence – areas of Mindanao – it would seem that there is less consolidation, more fragmentation of control, than elsewhere. Nothing much seems to have changed since the appalling Maguindanao massacre (including the lack of successful prosecutions!)
Of course the consolidation of dynasties and the apparent emergence of urban dynasties such as Binay and Estrada (Mayor of Manila, Erap; mistress and mother of a son, Guia Gomez, now Mayor of San Juan; brothers Jinggoy and JV Ejercito Estrada (as he was named on the ballots) in the Senate) reflects the growing consolidation of wealth in the country as, typically, with high “growth” and a “trickle down” economy based in the neo-liberalism, pro-corporate policies of Pnoy and his predecessor, the Philippines is following the common global path: rich get richer and the poor more numerous and poorer. As one TV pundit remarked, the “people at the bottom do not see the trickle”.
While one is on the subject of dynasties, we can tell the fans of Congressman Pacquiao that he seems to be establishing one himself. Or at least that is what it looks like with his unopposed victory in Sarangani, and the election of first-time candidate wife Jinkee to a vice-governorship.
According to media reports from across the country, there has been massive vote buying. Foreign Election Observers have confirmed this. Much commentary on TV has been related to this phenomenon: how to explain what appears to be a massive increase in vote buying (and what appears to be inflated prices – it appears that up to PhP 1000 is not uncommon across many areas, while some reports put the value of votes bought in some areas as high as 10,000 PhP. Although 100 to 300 PhP is probably the most common value for those who have been caught by police and reported by the media.)
It is generally thought that, paradoxically perhaps, the introduction of the PCOS machines has changed the vote-getting scene. One media expert on grass roots campaigning suggested that “the political game is now awash with money”, far more than in elections in the past. What the politicians have realised is that cheating old-style by simply adding and shaving votes manually at the local and provincial levels is too difficult – if not impossible – with the PCOS machines and massive media scrutiny etc. Therefore they put little or no money into all the old post-ballot cheating practices. This then releases huge amounts of money to make sure that pre-ballot efforts will be successful, i.e. that the votes are bought and “in the bag” so to speak.
Ironically, while many commentators and voters expressed the view that the elections were more “free” or “open” and there was much less (or no) “fear” – an ambience which made voting quicker and more pleasant, there were signs that this too was a factor in vote-buying. In particular, there was evidence of a lack of privacy in voting (which I observed in 2010 as well). That is, voters were observed leaving a polling station with their ballot, returning later to vote; photos could be taken of the “shaded” ballot* before the vote was placed in the PCOS machine, sometimes inside sometimes from outside, the polling station. All of these actions are violations of the electoral laws. But these, and others, could be mechanisms for ensuring that a vote bought was cast in accordance with the deal agreed by the voter.
*Ballot choices are made by shading a box next to a candidate’ name. Many reports of “pre-shaded”Personalities, policies and parties
..ballots being distributed surfaced during the election.
Not a lot needs to be said here. Any observer of Filipinos at politics will realise that personalities and “name-recognition” are extremely important in any election (see the success of Jinkee Pacquiao indicated above).
This time Grace Poe has demonstrated the point extravagantly. She has never held an elected office (was appointed in 2010 by Pres. Aquino to be Chair of the Movie and Television Classification and Review Board; resigned in 2012 to run for the Senate) yet snatched first place in the Senatorial elections by a substantial margin. Of course, as did Pnoy in 2010 – coming from nowhere after his mother died to take the presidency – she rode a crest of sympathy because of the theft by GMA of the 2004 election when her father, Fernando Poe, Jr should properly have been elected president. Of course he, like President Estrada before him, was a former movie super-star. (Grace Poe was also aided by the campaigning of her mother, movie queen Susan Roces, still a darling of the masses).
Poe, running as an “Independent”, like several other wannabe candidates, and even such familiar reelectionists (and members/leaders of other parties!) as Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillanes, Bong Revilla, Jr and Chiz Escudero, joined the TEAM PINOY bandwagon to ensure they were on the President’s list of electables. None of these are members of Aquino’s Liberal Party ( dubbed the yellows, Cory Aquino’s symbolism still is utile). It was faintly amusing to see, on TV, a shot of TEAM PINOY at a political rally – Poe and the others were the only ones not in yellow.
The final tally appears to indicate that of the 12 elected senators, only one will be a member of Pnoy’s Liberal Party – and that is his cousin Bam Aquino. Enough said.
As far as policies go, it was pretty much a “policy-free zone”. Poe refused to be drawn into debate. Like the rest of the field – with at least one exception, Bayan Muna’s Teddy Casino (ranked 22nd in the Senate results) – Poe gave the impression that she was pro-poor and wanted the Philippines to continue to grow and to become a country all could be proud of again, with corruption to be tackled. But it was very difficult for media commentators to get any specific actions she – or other successful candidates – would be pursuing. Nor did the commentariat have any idea from the campaigning, what the “reform agenda” really consisted of, though the president was hanging out for a TEAM PINOY sweep so that reform “achievements” could be added to.
In the event it seems the result was 9 for his gang and 3 for the UNA “opposition” which was put together and led by Vice president Binay, Erap (Estrada) and Senate President J P Enrile. Opposition? Well, that was how they styled themselves. What was their opposition? Well, they did not really oppose any policies of the president, according to the veep, Binay. In fact they supported the President in general. They were just…opposing their candidates to those of the president. Kinda like an “alternative”. It was all pretty tame stuff.
What for the future
With 2016 on the horizon, the Aquino “coalition” will no doubt begin to shatter as the “presidentiables” begin to make their bid, if not before. The Cayetano (3rd in the Senate race) camp, the Roxas (his turn as he stepped aside for Cory’s son?) camp, a Poe camp perhaps, and an Escudero (4th) camp – possibly Legarda (2nd) again? – all of these (and maybe others) will wish to mark out their ground.
Amongst the “opposition”, Binay senior will surely be a very strong candidate, with daughter Nancy earning her spurs, perhaps looking to 2024 (one cannot imagine this neophyte nipping in before her father, despite a credible first time performance – 5th in the Senate race).
No one in the country can expect much difference in the next election. It should be more “exciting” as there will be more at stake, and the battle will be “winner take all”, but for the mass of people, even an economic trickle will not appear despite the likelihood of continued “growth” from which the ruling class and its political agents will continue to benefit, reaping the rewards of aggressive worker/peasant repression and unbelievable exploitation.
One thing all the major beneficiaries of this system will agree upon – not to take human rights seriously. That has been an issue entirely ignored by the politicians (with few exceptions) and the media. Not surprisingly.
……………….~Gill H. Boehringer
Last edited by Epsilon=One : 04-09-2018 at 12:14 AM.