THE result of the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey that showed overwhelming public satisfaction with the conduct of the May 2010 elections is hardly surprising. It merely validated what we already knew--and felt.
I was one of those who, up to the last minute, doubted the capacity of the Comelec and its private partner, Smartmatic, to make the automated elections work and I am happy to have been proven wrong. It helped that the public was especially vigilant every step of the way from the day the now famous PCOS machines were delivered up to the time they transmitted and tabulated the results.
The biggest credit goes to the Commission on Elections, until then a most maligned, discredited and distrusted institution. It is not inaccurate to say that its ill reputation was well-deserved. There were simply too many instances, though unproven in the sense that no one has been convicted in court, that tended to show that it had consented to, if not actively participated in, its mockery.
Heightening our anxieties was the fact that the automated elections were generally untested. There were simply too many imponderables.
The early fumbles did little to assuage our unease. And when days before the elections it was discovered that the electronic cards didn’t work and had to be reconfigured, it set off a wave of panic. Were we seeing another attempt to rig the elections?
But amid calls to return to a manual count, the Comelec stood fast even as Smartmatic frantically worked to address the glitches. The rest is, as they say, history. On election day, a huge majority of the Filipino electorate went to the polling precincts, in what could only be viewed as an acceptance of the PCOS and automated elections. Voters stood in long lines, in some cases waiting until the late hours in the evening, to cast their votes.
And if they had been merely curious about the machines at the start, they eventually learned to trust it as the results began to trickle in. Hallelujah, the PCOS did know how to read, record and transmit!
True, there were complaints of electronic cheating but they proved to be unsubstantiated. An example was the case of a Quezon City congresswoman who couldn’t believe that she lost and brandished memory cards before a congressional committee hearing as supposed evidence of fraud. But after initially agreeing to have the cards in her possession tested, she chickened out at the last minute.
For the sour grapes like her, the SWS survey should be sufficiently chastening. The three out of four people who vouched for the integrity of a process that they participated in constitute a clear majority. Their judgment is definitely more believable, and more likely to be accurate, compared with that of the doubting 25 percent.
Of course, a lot remain to be done for us to be able to hold the nearest thing to a perfect election. For example, the matter of overcrowding in the polling precincts had to be addressed. We shouldn’t punish our citizens who want to exercise the solemn civic right and duty of suffrage by subjecting them to the heat of the sun.
But while they can’t rest on their laurels, Comelec officials can take a bow, none of them more deservingly than Chairman Jose Melo and Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal. The latter was the face of the May 2010 elections. If it had gone wrong, he would have been public enemy number one.
Thank God to the Comelec, Smartmatic and a vigilant citizenry (not necessarily in that order), it did not. And so we move on.