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.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Teachers protest Brillantes’ wrong send. Comelec’s rush to proclaim winners despite millions of votes still missing aimed to preempt nullification call. Nancy's first post-election move---to boycott her proclamation--- well-advised. Catholic vote worked vs. Risa Hontiveros.

Last Tuesday evening Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes suddenly stopped publicizing election results from various points as transmissions came to an extremely slow pace. This year only 69 % of the votes were transmitted within 48 hours after the elections---much slower than in the 2010 elections where 80 percent of the votes were transmitted within five hours of polls' close.   

Brillantes blamed the teachers for the delay, but a number of them marched today to Comelec to protest his wrong send:  it was not them, they insisted, but the poll body that caused all the delays through its defective machines.  


The Comelec chose to proclaim last Tuesday night the first six senators in the Magic 12  even though at that point it  had only canvassed 72 certificates of canvass (COCs). This number, as Brillantes’ kumpadre, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, pointed out, was not even half of the 304 COCs expected. In fact, 48 hours after elections closed, 12 million votes were still missing with no transmissions from many hundreds of precincts.

This fact, asserted Macalintal, makes Tuesday's proclamation null and void and he challenged the five “winners” to return their proclamation certificates.

Comelec proclaimed the “winning” senators despite UNA’s petition to delay proclamation, and the warning of Namfrel Secretary-General Eric Alvia that the “lost votes” could still affect the senatorial race. As Atty. Macalintal noted, among the missing COCs were those from traditionally vote-rich provinces such as Cebu and Pampanga.


UNA’s candidate
Nancy Binay
UNA’s candidate Nancy Binay, who was among the first six candidates proclaimed, did not show up at Comelec. Her explanation: her political party has taken a stand to protest the proclamation. That first post-election political act of this political neophyte is well-advised.  It would have been quite odd if she showed up that night.

Happily two “winners” proclaimed tonight at Comelec, reelectionist Senators Koko Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes, were more sensitive to criticisms of premature proclamation to which their six colleagues were subjected, and they chose to boycott tonight. Only LP’s Bam Aquino showed up by his lonesome, looking ill at ease.  


Chair Brillantes was obviously driven to rush proclamation of the first  six “winners ” despite the huge chunks of still-missing votes, for a couple of reasons. One is doubtless to justify his dogged pursuit of automated over manual elections-- despite the breakdown of the old PCOS machines during the one and only public test-run and in overseas advance votings, and the elimination of security safeguards by the poll body in various resolutions.

Ironically, automated count was touted to save the nation of five to 12 hours over manual counting, but in these recent elections, it became far worse than manual. 

Then too, Brillantes doubtless feels speedy proclamation is a sure way to preempt predictable demands for nullification of the elections.  

Contrast these rush proclamations despite the huge chunk of still-missing votes with the Comelec’s order in many local races to withhold proclamations until results are in 100%.

No wonder the electorate is confused---and highly suspicious of the results. Comelec is eroding the people’s faith in the electoral system.


For the past four days all over the country, it was “hora de peligro” when a lot of hocus pocus seemed to be happening with the tamperable hocus PCOS machines, CF cards that had to be physically transmitted to municipal centers because of the machines’ failure, sudden unexplained power outages in many places, and heaven knows what else.

All these lapses have caused  people across the nation terrible anxiety that has translated into open disgust for the conduct of the elections, except in the most rabidly yellow followers. These lapses have reminded people of  the warning of former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman: that it’s in the transmission stage that electronic dagdag-bawas occurs.


What makes it worse is that Comelec simply turns a deaf ear on all the election-related complaints, instead of offering viable and intelligible explanations for them,  e.g., what was causing all the transmission delays? What happened to the regional file of several million votes “inadvertently” erased by a Comelec personnel?

But then, the poll body is just being consistent with its behavior in the months prior to the elections, when it chose to “deadma” the litany of complaints tirelessly raised by IT experts under the umbrella of the AES Watch (please note that this group will conduct a post-election media briefing tomorrow, Saturday, May 18, at UP Balay Alumni, Diliman, Q.C., 10-11:30 am.).


For instance, in Negros Oriental, until today they did not still know who won in the congressional fight, with the power conking out from Guihulngan all the way to Valle Hermoso for a few hours---perhaps enough to tinker with results? There were power outages too in Lanao Sur and other places in Mindanao.

Within hours from polls' close the PPCRV from its command center in the Pope Pius XII Center in Manila apologized for double entry of results which it attributed to “formatting error.” Left unanswered by both PPCRV and Comelec, however, was the question of what a Smartmatic top official was doing tinkering with PPCRV’s transparency files.


A number of commentators have opined that recent results show that there is no Catholic vote after all, as a number of pro-life senatorial candidates, notably JC de los Reyes, Lito David and Marwil Llasos, failed to score well. But it must be noted that these three candidates, eloquent  and full of conviction as they are, really did not stand a chance vs. other candidates better known, with formidable party machinery and all the funds to advertise heavily in the mass media.

So, is there no Catholic vote?  I agree with my friend Joe Romero who argues in social media that the Catholic vote is a work in progress. The Catholic vote is not like the Iglesia ni Cristo vote that’s mobilized en masse for every election; this is the first time that this term, in fact, has emerged in an electoral exercise.
But perhaps the era of solid “command votes” may be coming to an end even for the vaunted INC. Note, for instance, that the INC supported President GMA’s former finance secretary Gary Teves, for governor in Negros Oriental, and while he was, to my mind, the most deserving of three candidates, Gary only ended up second  to winner Roel Degamo, the former vice-governor. On the other hand, reports say that Rep. Tomas Osmena was supported by the INC in his bid to recapture the mayor's post of Cebu City, but he lost resoundingly to Mike Rama.
A friend who’s with the INC estimates that the sect still commands 80% of the votes, but 20% choose to go their own way politically.

A number of bishops, such as Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Florentino Ferrer
Cinense of Tarlac and Vicente Navarra of Bacolod, came out with their list of candidates, the “Team Buhay,” to support vs. the “Team Patay,” but many other bishops chose not to endorse candidates outright, but instead endorsed themes such as respect for life and the sanctity of the family.

But as Atty. Au Santiago, president of the Catholic lay umbrella coalition, the  “White Vote Movement,” pointed out to me, six out of the 10 endorsed by WVM made it to the senatorial race, and that only Mitos Magsaysay and the three Kapatiran candidates failed to do so (Au included Richard Gordon in the winning column, but this remains to be seen).

But it is also a correct claim that at this stage in the slow gelling of the “Catholic vote,” it worked more in the negative than the positive. The Catholic vote helped bring down the most prominent symbol of the pro-RH movement, the purple-alampay wearing Risa Hontiveros. In addition, the party-list Buhay is No. 1 among the party-lists that succeeded in these elections, which counts former Manila Mayor and staunch pro-Life advocate Lito Atienza in its nominees to the House.

(More on the Catholic vote in next blog)

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