Elections as farce and as protest

Protests against election fraud in the Philippinesby Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, Phillipines After the May 14 elections, are we any closer to the democratic society that our grade school textbooks proudly proclaim the Philippines to be? Unfortunately, the general picture emerging from the stories and the images that have so far dominated the tri-media and ordinary people’s accounts is that of a nightmarish elections and post-elections situation that has confirmed our worse fears. The farcical nature of the electoral process in this country has been laid bare, much worse than even our most dire predictions. There was widespread disenfranchisement, vote buying, “flying voters” and innumerable delays, disruption and even failure of elections due to outright grabbing of election paraphernalia, bombing of polling places and terrorizing of poll officials and the voters themselves. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has been flagrantly pro-administration. This is proven by the deliberate foot dragging and confusing pronouncements it issued on the case of senatorial candidate, Allan Peter Cayetano, (also known as the First Gentleman’s pet peeve and nemesis) who is currently in danger of losing because his votes are being waylaid by an administration-fielded nuisance candidate, Joselito Cayetano. Now there are attempts by the COMELEC to discredit and muffle media reporting of partial results that tend to show opposition victories in the senatorial race as well as in some local electoral contests. We witnessed government attempts to reduce, if not eliminate, opposition from party list groups by (1) creating pro-administration party list groups and fully supporting these with government resources; (2) by the military's crude attempt to "neutralize" Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party through terror and psywar tactics targeted at actual and potential supporters in rural and urban poor communities and (3) by the filing of trumped-up rebellion and other criminal charges against the standard bearers of these party lists together with moves to disaccredit them and completely bar them from participating in the electoral arena. The chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been engaged in a determined effort to malign and campaign against a senatorial candidate, Navy Lieutenant Antonio Trillanes, who the government has jailed and is prosecuting on the basis of weak rebellion charges. His strong showing at the polls threatens to develop into a political slap in the face for AFP Chief Esperon and add fuel to the simmering unrest within the young officer corps and military rank and file. The military has also been caught red-handed campaigning for Malacanang’s senatorial line-up as well as for its congressional candidates foremost of who are the two sons of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. However, the patent unpopularity of the GMA regime is clearly reflected in the early and strong lead of the candidates of the Genuine Opposition (GO) in the senatorial race, a result that can reasonably be interpreted as some kind of a protest vote. In the Visayas provinces, touted by administration rah-rah boys as delivering a much ballyhooed 12-0 Team Unity (TU) win, several GO senatorial candidates are still exhibiting a strong showing. It is only in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or ARMM, notoriously known as “cheating country” for the administration candidates, where the TU is claimed to have been able to muster a landslide win. In effect, the Arroyo regime has been able to “command” the people to vote for its candidates by utilizing feudal cultural, political, economic and plain coercive means on top of good old-fashioned fraud and violence. While the regime has been able to thwart attempts to impeach and oust GMA by a combination of muzzling media, neutralizing an Opposition-dominated Senate, the cynical use of presidential largesse to wield a pro-administration Congress, state terrorism in the guise of counter-insurgency, fascist measures against protest mass actions, legal dirty tricks against the opposition and dissidents, and not the least, continued US blessings, it is turning out that the political backlash has grown too big for Mrs. Arroyo and her clique to cheat their way out of the people’s rejection in these elections. Mrs. Arroyo cannot even claim any kind of moral or political high ground in terms of presiding over fairly credible elections. Statements from Malacanang, the COMELEC and the police extolling the “good, clean and orderly” elections is an unmitigated lie that hardly anyone believes. Mrs. Arroyo is directly to blame for the disgraceful conduct and outcome of the recent polls in contrast to her boastful promises that clean and honest elections would be her lasting legacy as president. The elections as a democratic exercise, i.e. ensuring the consent of the governed, have been completely undermined in the latest exercise to the point of being a farce. But the resilient people’s democratic movement and, in particular, the broad-based Oust GMA Movement, has been able to achieve Mrs. Arroyo’s most dreaded scenario: mid-term elections that are fast developing into a stinging rebuke of the Arroyo regime’s misrule, crimes against the people and against humanity, and its lust for money and power. More than that, the aftermath of the elections could become a build-up to another massive, popular outpouring of discontent that could finally force Mrs. Arroyo from power. Definitely, there will be more sleepless nights ahead for Mrs. Arroyo. The adage -- uneasy sits the crown on an unjust and oppressive ruler -- easily comes to mind.

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