Pooled editorial: Election problems: beyond the machines-A A +A
Saturday, May 15, 2010
AN Asian group of foreign observers found many things wrong with the May 10 elections other than computer glitches: disorderly voting, outbursts of violence, fraud, almost all the offenses in the book.
To prove one point, the observers showed a video clip of a polling center in Mindanao thrown into a melee when men with guns started shooting.
The observers admired voters’ endurance in braving the congestion and near-chaos in the precincts but they, in sum, found the election conditions appalling.
In contrast, we Filipinos gushed over speed in counting the votes: on election night, we knew who would be president; the next day, four national candidates conceded and most local bets were proclaimed, unheard of before in our election history.
Were the observers and ourselves looking at the same electoral exercise?
The conflicting assessments can be explained. The observers used international standards. We used Filipino measurements, more modest and less stringent.
In this year’s election, we were so focused on the PCOS machines, worrying over whether they would work and would not be used for fraud, that we tended to ignore most other poll problems.
But we don’t kid ourselves. Success in the use of the machines didn’t mean success elsewhere as many politicians hadn’t given up vote-buying, coercion, and other dirty tricks.
Fraud and violence were still rampant, depending upon the kind of locality and the brand of players.
Our problem is scaled-down standards. Eighteen or so deaths and we say it was peaceful. Do police need wholesale slaughter to revise assessment? Thousands of voters turned away, unruly queues, hapless election inspectors, and we say the disruptions and violations were isolated.
Our problem is distorted values. We’ve come to accept as part of the process vote-buying (outright cash purchase or disguised as help to the needy) and rule-bending (excessive or illegal propaganda). We have little sympathy for losers who protested when they were out-spent or outsmarted, and we scorn those who cry foul as if candidates were licensed to commit larceny.
Automation worked and we can still do a lot better. But, alas, many electoral ills, other than machines that conk out or memory cards that don’t read, still abound.
The reminders from foreign observers might help.
[SUN.STAR CEBU/PACHICO A. SEARES]