Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Let’s stop this charade about PCOS machines. Brillantes admits for first time--sans bluff-- that manual vote is an option. The JCOC should order Comelec to go manual as the people have lost total faith in the PCOS. Pia Cayetano files bill to repeal Art. 133 of Revised Penal Code, seeking to make restraint in hurtful language in still-sacred places look “antiquated.” Part of the “new normal."

Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes asserted today in a news report that the poll body will “try to convince” the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on the Automated Election System (AES) to allow it to review the ‘binary code’ or the software on binaries instead.”  Brillantes was reported to have said this following refusal of Dominion Voting Systems, the real owner of the AES technology, to allow Smartmatic to review the source code for the ballot-scanning and vote-counting machines in the May elections.

According to the news report, the source code is a “human-readable representation of instructions that regulate the operation of a computer,” whereas the binary code is composed of “machine-readable” instructions.  Brillantes says he needs the go-signal of JCOC to allow the poll body to review the binary code or the software on binaries instead.


But source code or binary code, it’s THE SAME BANANA. As our IT experts assert collectively, several thousands of the 81,200 used PCOS machines (bought and paid for by us taxpayers for P1.8 billion) had to be discarded as irreparable, while many other thousands are in bad need of repair and there’s no telling whether they can still work.

Moreover, whatever instructions Comelec puts into these machines, THE PEOPLE WOULD NO LONGER BELIEVE THEIR RESULTS.   

Let’s all appeal to our fellow countrymen:  let’s stop this charade or stupidity about the PCOS machines. After all, as Brillantes says, the dispute between Dominion and Smartmatic may force the Comelec to return to manual counting of votes this May. This is the first HONEST statement he has made. LET'S GO MANUAL THEN.

Media, the business community, the various churches and faiths, legislators with conscience---we all have to join hands in working out a manual count. Brillantes was quoted as saying that “if the JCOC won’t approve, we are left with no choice...They will have to tell us that we should go manual.”

Then let’s tell our senators and representatives that WE’RE ORDERING THEM TO, in turn, ORDER COMELEC TO GO MANUAL. At this point there is no way out except manual.

For weeks and weeks we’ve all discussed and dissected the PCOS machines’ lack of merit and Comelec’s ill-preparedness to conduct an AES for May. Now it's admitting for the first time, sans bluff, that it could go manual---pwede pala, if Congress would  allow it.

Let’s tell Congress---GO MANUAL---and then let’s all work together---Comelec, the IT experts, Namfrel and other citizen watchdogs, the churches, civic organizations, the teachers and the various political parties and groups---to make sure the May elections are clean, reliable and truly reflective of the people’s choice.


As the Senate wound up the Third Session of the 15th Congress last week Sen. Pia Cayetano filed Senate Bill No. 3402, titled “An Act Repealing for this Purpose Art. 133 of Act. No. 3815, As Amended, Otherwise Known as the Revised Penal Code.”  Her bill was obviously in support of activist Carlos Celdran, who was recently sentenced by a lower court to a prison term after it found him guilty of violating Art. 133 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The incident involving Celdran happened in September 2011, when he barged into an ecumenical mass at the Manila Cathedral, bearing a placard  with the word “Damaso” on it, and protesting the bishops’ alleged interference in state affairs. The court found his actuation offensive under  Art. 133 of the RPC, which punishes “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”  


As Sen. Cayetano explained in her bill, Art. 133 “has the effect of a law which retrains these protected guarantees,” namely, the freedom of speech and of expression that, she argues, are enshrined and protected under the 1987 Constitution. Citing Art. III, Sec. 4 of the Constitution, i.e., “(n)o law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech (and) expression,” she further argued that the RPC was enacted on January 1, 1932, more than 50 years before the 1987 Constitution.

Thus, she stressed, there is a need “to revisit antiquated criminal laws such as Art. 133, to strike a balance” with the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech and expression.

She stressed, however, that repeal of Art. 133 does not mean that one’s right to freedom of religion will be disregarded. She argues that “a person can still be held liable for civil damages under Art. 32 of the Civil Code, which provides redress in case there is a violation of the different Constitutional rights enumerated therein, including the freedom of religion and speech.”


A friend of mine who’s a Theologate professor teaching social ethics sent this reaction to Cayetano’s SB 3402:

“Senate Bill 3402 of the 15th Congress is harmful to the common good and the public welfare, and in fact, is socially dangerous.

“Granted that freedom of expression is a human right enshrined in the Constitution and protected by law, this right has limits set by other rights, in the interest of the common good and the public welfare.

“For freedom of expression to be beneficial to the common good, the manner and setting of its exercise should be appropriate.  The criterion for its appropriateness is the purpose of freedom of expression, which is making available to the body politic all relevant information for the citizenry to decide which views of social reality are the most correct or accurate, and which policies, laws, and measures best promote the common good, or are the least harmful.

“The purpose of the freedom of expression is not expression for the sake of expression---that is why this freedom has limits such as those set by the penalization of libel, slander and defamation, in most jurisdictions. The law (ethics too, and common sense) does not suppose that anyone can just say anything in public.  Allowing anyone to say just anything, no matter how untrue or harmful, will coarsen the social discussion or debate and will abet verbal and eventually physical violence, as it were, generating "more heat than light," and unnecessary social acrimony rather than the reasoning together that’s best for the common good and essential for authentic democracy.

“The bill of Sen. Cayetano will encourage the use of deliberately hurtful language or gesture in the national social debate, thus heightening emotions and exacerbating acrimony.  This will coarsen the social discussion or debate, for the parties in the debate will be more and more emboldened to use hurtful language and gesture, because restraints on these even in precincts still (or previously?) considered sacred, will be deemed "antiquated" or "archaic."  (This is another example of the baleful "new [socio-cultural] normal" that certain secularizing sectors of Philippine society are pushing.)

“It is important to note that the Cayetano bill, in effect, authorizes hurtful language and gesture "in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony."

“It is also important to consider two sociological realities:

* (a) that a place devoted to religious worship is in a sense "private," being owned by a particular religious group that uses and maintains it, and so attacks on the feelings of the group in such a setting are felt more keenly and cause more offense, than when a trespasser insults householders within their own homes;

* (b) religion endows deep meaning to the lives of believers, and an attack on religion attacks the very reason for being and the deep meaning of the lives of believers;  and so when religion is attacked the offense tends to be more deeply felt.

“Furthermore, there are good reasons to say that the bill shows a mindset that is: 

 - Either sociologically naive, not aware of the strong potential for social acrimony or strife consequent to the enactment (which God forbid) of the bill into law;
 - or precisely wishing this acrimony or bitterness to come about:

* perhaps because of a dismissive, disrespectful or contemptuous attitude toward religion,
* and/or a secularist attitude that religious beliefs and attitudes should not influence public policy, and should be purely private matters.”

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