Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Seares: Are we better than US on election practices? Grace Poe conceded; FPJ did not. Their dead were poll-listed. Ours actually voted.

News Sense

WHEN US President Donald Trump and his campaign started alleging that he won and was being cheated by rival Joe Biden's camp, citing all sorts of fraudulent devices and strategies employed against him, some Filipinos commented that the post-election behavior was typically Pinoy.

Are our politicians who cheat better than theirs who cheat so that, in mock comparison, we say they are aping us? Not quite.

On conceding, the loser's noble gesture is a US tradition already; no modern president before Trump refused to concede. How about us? We have had an uneven record on behavior after the winner is proclaimed.

Who conceded, who didn't

President Rodrigo Duterte's rivals in 2016 rivals conceded promptly: Mar Roxas in the afternoon of May 11 and Grace Poe, close to midnight of May 10. VP bet Allan Peter Cayetano, No. 3 in the race, conceded to winner Leni Robredo but second-placer Bongbong Marcos did not.

In the 2004 election, Fernando Poe Jr., also refused to concede. Much earlier, in 1961, Carlos Garcia did not concede to Diosdado Macapagal.

But the most blatant rejection of the popular vote, after he was caught rigging it, was by martial law president Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap election, which led to his ouster in a bloodless "revolt." Marcos avoided having to concede by just stealing it, history records attest. It has haunted Marcos's legacy since and tainted the political brand of the surviving Marcoses.

Disorderly transfer of power

Refusal to concede and latching on to the seat of power -- which sometimes result in impasse that could end with the loser being bodily evicted from office -- cannot be said to be the norm in the Philippines. But our transfers of power are not always orderly, which require acceptance of election results and allowing the incumbent to finish his term.

Rejecting defeat and condemning the ballot had not yet prevented assumption of the winner of the Palace seats. But there were already two disruptions of the presidential term: Marcos's in 1986 (thus seating Corazon Aquino) and Joseph Estrada's in 2001 (installing Gloria Arroyo).

Post-election stalemates in the local governments are deplorable too but do not inflict as much damage or sow as wide divisiveness as when transfer of power for the highest office of the land is disrupted.

We had two incumbent presidents thrown out, both for the public good (as affirmed by the annual celebration of the two events). Still, being unconstitutional, they disrupt the democratic process. It meant our democracy was not working or strong enough to withstand the tumult.

Why Pinoys gloat

That must partly explain how some Filipinos now gloat over the monkey wrenches thrown into the US electoral process and transition procedure. The leader of democracy is having serious problems about its own apparatus of electing and installing its president. And we grin from ear to ear.

What looks and sounds funny to Pinoys is that Trump, the presumed loser, is protesting against strategies in cheating that are pulled in many parts of this country during elections.

Trump alleges that ballots were dumped beyond deadline at the count centers beyond deadline, watchers kept a far distance from those making the count, and dead people were listed as voters. Here, he would be laughed out of his pants: in the Philippines, the sitting president wields the power to commit fraud, not the challenger.

What we do and they don't

The publicized listing of the fraud techniques cannot match our listing, not even close.

The Americans do not know or employ:

[] Thugs and goons, "no-vote, ibot" threats on tenants, water terrorism on hostile consumers of the mayor-controlled water district;

[2] Corruption of teachers who run the poll precincts, police patrols restricting mobility of politicians and their cash handlers;

[3] Buying of votes in bulk or bloc in compounds and neighborhoods; fielding street buyers who prey on voters waiting in the sun or rain for the right price;

[4] Herding paid-up voters at a resort, club or safe-house until they vote or can no longer vote; and so on.

We don't have voting by mail, except maybe for Filipinos abroad, but if we had that locally, our politicians would have already found a way to hijack or pilfer their votes too.

Candles for voters

The US politicians indeed can learn a thing or two from the Filipino system. Some dead people are also in the voters list, Trump alleged. No big deal. In the Philippines, in Cebu particularly, some years ago, a politico used to buy hundreds of candles for tombstones on All Souls Day, as "a modest thank-you" to resting voters.

And in the US, they don't have a Comelec. They have election officials in each state, representing both contending parties, which they don't or can hardly corrupt.

Not like our central-managed Comelec that is often controlled or influenced by the sitting president ("Hello Garci"), whose skills include realigning of votes en masse and helping the favored party navigate the complex but pliable election laws.


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