I believe I was promised a copy of Bantay Eleksyon’s report on the election of 2007, but I haven’t gotten it yet. So, in the meantime, I’ll have to make do with the PDI’s version. You can read the entire article here.
It seems that the ‘failing grade’ we supposedly received from BE stemmed from “ ‘unacceptable delays’ in canvassing; incidents of violence; and numerous proclamation protests.”
Let’s break that down a bit.
Bantay Eleksyon said the current manual method of canvassing was “a demonstrated failure” in the May 2007 elections.
The manual procedures “easily led to unacceptable delays at every stage of canvassing, up to the proclamation of candidates, and was readily susceptible to various manipulations by unscrupulous persons who have motives to cheat in the elections.”
The process, they added, was “vulnerable to threats of violence or disruption,” particularly when the canvassing stretched to more than 24 hours.
This part of BE’s report highlights what we’ve been saying all along: the electoral system needs automation. With automation, we eliminate delays to a substantial extent, and when we eliminate delay, we make it more difficult for cheats to compromise the integrity of elections. So, yeah, to the extent that this finding underscores the very raison d’etre of automation, i’m going to have to agree.
The group referred to delays in the proclamation that were in turn caused by delayed canvassing, pre-proclamation protests, missing boards of election inspectors, missing or lost election documents, and accusations of cheating.
Of course, these things refer to Maguindanao, and if we are to talk about these things significantly affecting the outcome of the elections, then they refer to Maguindanao only. Remember, 10 out of 12 Senators were proclaimed within three weeks from the start of canvassing. We could’ve made the two-week target but changes in procedural rules significantly increased the time it took to complete canvassing.
Incidents of Violence
Again, yes. No one denies that violence did mar the elections. But seriously. Can the COMELEC be blamed for people wanting to resort to violence to get their way? Even with gun bans and check points, if people decided they want to use violence as a means to an end, they will do so. Just as an example: after JFK’s assasination, the American Secret Service became paranoid about their President’s safety. And yet a crazed Jody Foster fan was still able to shoot Ronald Reagan. The point being if someone is determined enough to use violence they will be able to do so.
Numerous proclamation protests
On this point, the PDI reported:
Many proclamations were under protest. The group said: “This points not only to a certain subculture of non-acceptance of an electoral loss but also to the low credibility of the canvassing process itself.”
I agree with the first part of that statement, but I have to wonder at the determined attempt of the second part to blame the COMELEC for the candidates’ non-acceptance of an electoral loss.’ For one thing, there were many cases when people who declared confidence in the COMELEC – whether overtly or impliedly – who nevertheless protested their loss.
For another, this argument reeks of passing the buck. Why can people not accept that the vast majority of politicians in the Philippines will always protest losing and blame the COMELEC for it? Who else are they supposed to blame? Themselves for running lousy campaigns? Themselves for losing the trust and confidence of the voters? Themselves for even running when they obviously no longer had what it took to win?
This being the case, why forcibly blame the COMELEC for this ‘sub-culture?’
However, BE did raise – based on PDI’s article – a point that should be looked into:
Can there be a contingency plan in case BEI’s fail to function, i.e., aside from declaring a failure of elections and scheduling special elections?
The way I understand it, to fully answer this question we’re going to have to see if the laws allow a sort of ‘stand-by BEI’ to be constituted just in case the original BEI fails to function. Another issue is reporting: in order for stand-by BEI’s to be effective, the fact of failure must be reported promptly and enough time given to deploy the stand-by BEI. This doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable issue, but it is related to manpower: are their enough people to spare to just stand around and wait for an event (failure) that may never materialize?
BE also said that the COMELEC “performed adequately” in the preparations for and supervision of canvassing processes.