President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte won by a landslide in this year’s elections. Most remarkable of all, he won it being true to and consistent with his nature. What we saw in him as mayor of Davao City is what we got during the campaign. Will what we get out of him as president be consistent with what we saw during the campaign? That, of course, remains to be seen. The important thing is that most of his promises were made on the back of the consistency of his character and his approach to governance and administration over the several decades of his career in public service.
The trouble is, Duterte is surrounded. In both chambers of the Philippines’ Congress, parties and personalities hostile to Duterte as a person and to his vision for the country as its Chief Executive in the coming six years dominate. For a Vice President, he has equally hostile Leni Robredo, the last bastion of the Liberal Party’s (LP’s) hold on the executive branch of the Philippine government. Robredo who, by her own admission, does not foresee a smooth working relationship with Duterte over their term in office, will likely be snapping at the President’s heels over the next six years.
The LP spent billions of pesos in an acutely frantic campaign to put Robredo’s face in front of millions of would-be voters and cement her place at the top of those supposedly “independent” pre-election surveys. Unfortunately for the LP’s financiers, all those billions spent could only deliver a close tie with rival Bongbong Marcos. The desperation observed in the LP campaign has resulted in much greater attention drawn to mounting evidence of electoral fraud both in these elections and in past elections. Most interesting of all, a common denominator had also emerged. Smartmatic, which had likely raked in millions and millions of pesos over almost a decade of “partnership” with the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to digitise and automate national elections has been caught out tampering with the voting and data transmission systems they had sold to and installed for the COMELEC during critical election operations.
Not surprisingly, mainstream media is currently doing their best to bury the electoral fraud issue (as they had successfully done in previous years). The COMELEC, for its part, has all but swept the issue under the rug and is mounting a PR campaign to prop up the notion that these were the best-conducted elections in Philippine history. Smartmatic, for its part, has sought representation from the very glamorous and the very brilliant Karen Jimeno. Jimeno has, herself, become a popular media personality and bagged lucrative product endorsement deals since her gig as spokesperson of the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona’s legal team during his impeachment trial in 2012.
This time, however, the awesome firepower of big-capital-funded Mainstream Media and its army of silky-haired product-endorsing celebrities deployed to, once again, bury the issue of ingrained fraud in the Philippines’ election systems and practices is being met by non-traditional opinion shapers emerging from the grassroots. Calls to investigate mounting complaints being raised have strongly resonated across social media and various activists and cause-oriented groups. Back in the 7th May, the Asia Times reported that “hundreds of vote counting machine (VCM) technicians [had] been fired by the Comelec just before the polls” and noted that “the Commission on Elections does not seem to mind having automated poll fraud perpetrated in May.”
In his column published on the The Standard the 19th of May, Emil Jurado cited what he believes is “the best example of election fraud” in these times.
Indeed, where did the nearly 2.5 -million Iglesia votes for Marcos go? This I think attests to the manipulation of results transmitted to the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. A Smartmatic project director tampered with the hash code of the transparency server. After this, my gulay, the over-a-million lead of Marcos started disappearing.
Jurado makes his point clear as day…
The conspiracy between Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista and his Smartmatic friends is too obvious. We need a system audit to find out what truly happened.
The COMELEC misses the point by a mile when they defend their prized voting system supplier and insist that a code change implemented by Smartmatic technician Marlon Garcia in the midst of the vote count was only “cosmetic”. The real point here is that an unacceptable security breach owing to an unauthorised system access instigated by a Smartmatic employee had occurred. The Point, in short is built upon this simple principle:
Where there is the possibility of fraud, an investigation must be conducted.
In that context, one can easily see the awesome mega-bucks being shovelled into the effort to ensure that the siege machinery of Duterte’s opposition is well dug-in not only to block his reform agenda but also mount an attack plan to impeach him during his term. Congress is locked-and-loaded. The only missing piece is the VP sleeper who will replace him following a successful political coup. It is quite evident, in this instance (or, more appropriately, yet again), that the COMELEC, its mercenary vendor Smartmatic, and the Philippine Media have chosen which side of this battle they will be part of.
At this point, it is worth noting the most remarkable of all of Duterte’s challenges — one that is self-imposed. He has vowed to eradicate the use of pork barrel funds to bribe senators and House representatives. In short, Duterte has subjected himself and his administration to a challenge unique to his government. Influencing Congress without bribing it with pork will require grit, stamina, determination, political savvy, and, most importantly, innovation. Members of Philippine Congress, after all, see pork as practically the only point in spending mega-bucks on an election campaign to get them a seat there.
As such, if there is one thing worth watching (and worth keeping Duterte in office) over the next six years, it would be this — seeing Duterte through on his promise to eradicate pork from Philippine politics. On this alone, if successfully pulled off, Duterte will cement his legacy as the most successful president in the Philippines’ history.
[Thumbnail photo courtesy ABC News.]