Carvajal: From exclusive, 1

Break Point

IN A democratic state the mandate to rule stems from the will of the majority as expressed in free, fair and secret elections. Thus, democratic constitutions invariably provide for respect and protection of the sanctity of the ballot.

Flashing past elections against that major premise, one easily sees that we have never really been a genuine democracy for the simple but glaring fact that we have never had free, fair and secret elections.

Never free, because immoral candidates buy and poor voters sell votes. We never had enough fool-proof safeguards for the sanctity of the ballot and the few that are in place have never been strictly enforced by past or present Commissions on Elections (Comelec).

Hence, the heaviest buyers of votes, the most generous transportation and food providers of new voters registering at Comelec and of old voters exercising their right of suffrage are the usual winners.

Never fair, because so far elections have been mere popularity contests and only wealthy candidates can buy expensive TV, radio and print ads to promote their names. They alone can afford to flood the place with sample ballots. The rules fixing a candidate’s expense to an amount per registered voter has never been followed by immoral candidates nor strictly enforced by equally immoral Comelec personalities.

Hence, a more qualified, more honest and more patriotic but poor candidate has a snowball’s chance in hell of running not to mention winning in our elections.

Finally, our elections have never been secret. Voters do not mark their ballots in complete secrecy inside polling booths but in makeshift open cubicles separated only by Manila paper. Sample ballots are allowed inside these cubicles so vote-buyers, through their watchers, could ensure that the votes they bought are accordingly delivered by the sellers.

Oddly enough, vote-counting that is supposed to be public and transparent has become secret. Computers now do the counting using algorithms the public can neither see and witness nor understand and verify. As a result, both counting and cheating are faster and easier... with the press of a key, somewhere.

There are provisions in the Constitutional Commission’s proposed federal charter that can correct these anomalies. I am afraid, however, that the reason candidates are not saying anything about reforming our electoral system is because they know reforming it will mean the end of their monopoly on power.

Anyway, I will expound on these provisions in my next column. Hopefully people can see that until these provisions are in place and enforced our democracy remains a sham as our elections retain its essential feature of exclusive playground of political dynasties.


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