The Marcos quest for political power despite electoral integrity

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Thinking Beyond Politics

The Marcos quest for political power despite electoral integrity

The recent ruling of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal junking the first cause of action of the electoral protest of former senator Bongbong Marcos has dashed hopes of the defeated vice-presidential bet to tarnish and question the integrity of the 2016 elections.

In his poll protest, Marcos sought to cast doubt on the integrity of the whole electoral exercise by questioning the authenticity of the Certificates of Canvass generated by the Consolidation and Canvass System. With his poll protest, the son of the late dictator seeks to seize political power by discrediting the whole automated election system and resorting to the dreaded manual recount of votes.

Arguably, the nation had taken great strides towards preventing traditional modes of cheating perpetrated with impunity during the era of manual elections. Moreover, there has been a huge decline in election-related violence since automated elections was implemented in the Philippines. Our democracy has been fully exercised, with voters confident in the results of the process and able to see that the results of the 2016 elections accurately reflected the will of the people.

The world saw more than 44 million Filipinos troop to their respective polling precincts and make their voices heard through a process that is a cornerstone of our democracy. While some groups have aired various concerns on the automated election system, with allegations that question the credibility of the elections, it’s important to take note of actual verifiable facts.

First, the number of Filipinos who voted for their next local and national leaders translates to an 81.95% turnout, one of the largest in recent memory.

Second, the elections saw the largest deployment of Vote Counting Machines (VCM), not only in the Philippines and the region but the world. Despite glitches in some machines, these occurrences were statistically negligible and do not detract from the efficiency of the polls in general.

Third, it is further testament to Comelec’s competence that when it was ordered by the Supreme Court to print out voter receipts, it complied satisfactorily and reconfigured almost 100,000 VCM in just over a month. As a result, over 40 million vote receipts were printed. The polls also required the recruitment, hiring, and training of more than 45,000 field technicians in less than three months and the printing of 56 million ballots in 49 days, more feats of technical flexibility. Come election day, Filipinos created one of the largest paper audit trails in the history of elections, with over 43 million voter-marked ballots and corresponding voter receipts, as well as over 2 million count reports, all available for auditing.

Fourth, when the voting was done, the Commission was able to proclaim an astounding near-perfect 99.9% of all 18,000 or so elective positions 10 days after the elections. By election night, some 86% of all votes had been transmitted, a remarkable accomplishment for an archipelago with a big diasporic population. Compare this to 59% in 2010 and 57% in 2013. That more than 20,000 losing candidates conceded by election night further attests to a stable belief in the polls’ credibility. Foreign observers and governments were likewise impressed. Clearly, faster results mean less instability and inspire greater confidence in the process.

Finally, the random manual audits completed — 715 precincts — went beyond the required one per legislative district.

An election that is hailed as one of the most successful and credible in history should be above senseless politicking. Given the record transparency of the process, any allegations should be based on verifiable facts, not evident and discernible political spin. The automated election system has served its purpose, tabulating results correctly and efficiently without human intervention.

This early, the poll protest of former senator Marcos has proven two things. First, the automated election system has been widely accepted and perceived to be credible. Second, former senator Marcos seems to be living in his own bubble, that as he questions the legitimacy and integrity of the vice-presidential results, he tends to forget that the mandate of his own mother and sister in the North came from the very same automated election system that he wants to depict as a failure and defective.

Claudette Guevara is currently the Secretary-General of DemocracyWatch.