CLAIMS of being cheated have always followed the holding of elections in the Philippines. Our vocabulary has even been enriched because of it. From “guns, goons and gold” (the 3Gs of old) to “dagdag-bawas.” It does seem like we are not capable of holding free and honest elections. Thus this observation: in Philippine elections, nobody loses and everybody cheats.
I won’t say there have been no efforts to improve the holding of our elections, especially post-Marcos. The “guns and goons” part, for example, which was dominant when warlordism surfaced in many economically backward areas of the country, has been largely eliminated with the changes in governmental setup and the passing away of the warlords of old.
Electoral cheating peaked under the Marcos dictatorship when the country itself was ruled by a warlord. The 1986 Edsa people power uprising was partly sparked by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos cheating Corazon Aquino of the win in the snap presidential elections he called. That showed that the Filipino people could rise up on the issue of electoral cheating.
Elections post-Marcos saw the rise of “dagdag-bawas” with the cheaters collaborating with corrupt election officials in manipulating the count. “Dagdag-bawas” pushed the failings of manual elections into the limelight, making the shift to computerized polls easier. Even now, with some politicians’ clamor for a return to manual elections, people are hesitant to support the manual polls lobby.
But suspicions have hounded the reliability of computerized polls even from the beginning. This is largely because many don’t have a full grasp of digital technology. While Filipinos are among the top users of social media, they largely do not understand the technology that allows them to be social media users. Their views can thus be easily swayed by anybody who claims to be knowledgeable or even an expert of the technology.
I say the current fuss over the results of the May 13 polls can be partly traced to what can be considered as fear of the unknown. Groups recently held a protest action claiming fraud in the May 13 political exercise. No evidence has been presented so far except that questions were raised on the technical glitches that interfered with the count especially in the senatorial race.
I am not prepared to jump into the fray because I too am ignorant of the technology used in the elections. On this, we rely on experts and there are experts on both sides of the divide. Can the technology be manipulated? If so, how? And if there are ways to manipulate the results of elections using digital technology, where’s the proof?
It’s not enough, for example, to say that the equipment used in the elections were made in China, which insinuates that China may be interfering in our elections. That may not be far-fetched considering that even in the United States, another country, Russia, has been accused of playing a role in Donald Trump’s win as president.
One positive thing here: the protest gives the Commission on Elections a chance to further educate us on the technology used in the polls.