POSTSCRIPT / May 21, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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As Erap senior adviser, is Ramos now rap-free?

EXCEPT for the sore losers who still cannot accept reality, everybody in this freewheeling country has gone back to normal mode, with the successful May 11 national elections quietly tucked away into history.

We’re just waiting for Congress, meeting in joint session in a few days, to proclaim Vice President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President-elect and Vice President-elect, respectively.

Never mind if Speaker Jose de Venecia refuses at this very late date to concede and if Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago is again railing that she had been cheated.

Except for De Venecia and Santiago, everybody from a nervous President Ramos to the voluble Jaime Cardinal Sin, had conceded Estrada’s landslide victory. The latest count shows Estrada piling up an insurmountable lead of more than four million votes over second-placer De Venecia.

Cardinal Sin, who had used the pulpit to warn the faithful that an Estrada victory would spell disaster, has shifted to reverse. He is now saying we should accept the poll results. In 1992, after he campaigned for then Speaker Ramon Mitra for president, the cardinal claimed after Mitra lost miserably that he actually voted for Ramos.

Displaying similar agility, political commentator J. V. Cruz, who had gone out on a limb using his Inquirer column to campaign for De Venecia, now claims he actually voted for Estrada.

* * *

A MORE pragmatic President Ramos apparently had left De Venecia to nurse his wounds. With plunder and graft charges hanging over his head, Mr. Ramos had hinted at the position of Senior Adviser to incoming President Estrada — and the latter graciously accommodated the lame duck President.

With his own sharp political instincts and his battery of advisers, Estrada does not really need a doting ex-president whispering in his ears, but the movie actor-soon-to-turn-president has been known for his humility and his being “mapag-bigay.”

Paparazzi still have to catch them holding hands, but Messrs. Ramos and Estrada have projected a picture and a promise of orderly transition.

In fairness to Mr. Ramos, but mainly to the Filipino people, the last national elections were generally peaceful – with only (only?) about a dozen lives lost in poll violence, just a scattering of poll tampering reported and a few precincts marred by a failure of elections.

Considering the deadly passion that normally marks the election of local officials, the casualty figures are boringly low.

On the positive side, the 80-percent turnout of voters is something that should put American voters to shame. What’s yours? Thirty-five percent?

* * *

WHAT can derail the proclamation of Estrada? Nothing.

What can De Venecia do? Well, he has been praying a lot. But with God Himself blushing over the election results (His allegedly anointed De Venecia lost), I doubt if He could be lured into Philippine politics again.

What about a filibuster by the noisy Santiago in the joint congressional session to be convened for the canvassing? Her antics and funny accent will not yield anything but entertainment.

A sudden flare-up of widespread violence to disrupt the process? We’re not Indonesia!

It’s obvious to us who still have faith in the Filipino that nothing can abort an Estrada presidency – except if the overweight president-in-waiting chokes while gulping down his favorite Johnny Walker Blue.

* * *

COMPUTER buffs may find it interesting, or amusing, that the computers that were sent to some Muslim regions for automated voting did not serve the purpose. I mean the purpose of speedy voting and an honest and accurate count.

It turned out that the machines came with a pre-installed program that automatically added 15 votes to De Venecia every time a figure was entered for any of the 10 other presidential candidates.

The horrified system administrator tried editing or correcting the program, but it was tamper-proof. After attempts to delete the offending instruction in the software failed, the technicians fell back on using good, old Microsoft Excel for tabulation.

There was no automated voting anywhere except in those few areas in Muslim Mindanao, and the isolated venture into computerization was a disaster.

Who will get it in the neck? Mark my word – nobody.

* * *

IT would be the same story, I dare say, with the indelible ink that had proved to be “edible.”

As in past elections, a voter’s right index finger is tainted with indelible ink that clings for days so he cannot vote again. That is a messy measure against flying voters, of which there are whole flocks of them everywhere every Election Day.

This time, in some precincts, some voters discovered that the ink could be washed away with plain water. One voter swore that he sucked away the ink and it proved to be “edible.”

Either the ink delivered was substandard or there was an attempt to make it easier for the usual coveys of flying voters. Who in the Commission on Elections got the commission from the supplier who must have made a fortune delivering cheap ink?

Again, who will get it in the neck? Mark my word – nobody!

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