POSTSCRIPT / December 16, 2003 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Registration mess a deliberate move?

DELIBERATE NEGLECT: We often wonder if the Commission on Elections is deliberately setting the stage for a failure of election and the civil strife that could erupt from it.

Aside from the Comelec’s plunging into a nationwide computerization program that it could neither afford nor administer with competence, there is the matter of chaotic registration.

It does not take genius to know that we can hold credible elections only if we first properly register the voters. So how come the Comelec neglected this crucial preliminary step?

The deadline for the revalidation of the registration of old voters came and went last Friday. A great number of old voters missed that crucial red-letter day because they were not aware of it!

The Comelec’s negligence on the matter is so blatant that a lot of people suspect it is deliberate. It’s that or sheer incompetence.

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DISENFRANCHISEMENT: What have Comelec commissioners been doing when they are not busy wrapping up juicy contracts for the P5-billion electoral exercise next year?

There could have been in media a daily countdown to the Dec. 12 deadline. Ten days or one week prior to Dec. 12, there could have been prominent daily reminders for which media would have gladly donated time and space.

A great number of voters, enough to make the difference in the results of the May 2004 elections, have been effectively disenfranchised by their having failed to either register or revalidate their old registration.

Many of those who tried several times to break through the throng flocking to registration centers simply went back home or proceeded to their work place without registering.

Of course it’s another story if you were an Imeldific figure in whose regal presence the sweaty crowd jammed at the registration center parted like the Red Sea so she could be accorded express handling.

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NOBODY CARES?: There were reportedly not enough registration centers, or poll workers, or data capturing machines, or holding area, or all of the above — or there was simply no method in the madness.

Whatever was or were the reasons/excuses, the bottom line is that the Comelec failed to come up to the registration challenge.

The scary part is that nobody in Comelec seems concerned enough about this registration fiasco that could just be a prelude to a failure of election in 2004.

We have not heard a peep from Comelec chairman Ben Abalos or any of the commissioners, including that lady board member who was always complaining about fat contracts (until Abalos came around and offered a Solomonic splitting of the, huh, fat baby.)

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BIAS VS WORKERS: The Comelec system seems to be biased against voters who have to report for work or attend to some business.

The great mass of unemployed adults, whose ranks keep swelling by the week, are favored because they have all the time to battle their way through day-long registration.

Those who have business meetings, important chores or work to do cannot spend the whole day jostling to register and get a chance to vote for the lesser of two or several evils come May.

Many would-be voters had given up, having found the Comelec’s obstacle course forbidding and the list of prospective candidates uninspiring.

That is just the registration part. We’ll talk about the rest later.

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NOISE POLLUTION: If the Intramuros Administration cannot maintain law and order in the Walled City as it should, it may be time to give back jurisdiction over the small area to the city government of Manila.

Long-time residents of the blocks clustered around San Agustin church have been complaining to the IA about the runaway commercialization of their neighborhood by night hawks who came in with the WOW Philippines touristic exhibits.

So now we have, for instance, a bar-restaurant whose deafening noise blares deep into the night to the consternation of residents who are entitled to their usual peace and quiet at night.

In fairness to Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon, he has warned the operator although their business is not under his direct supervision, but they resumed the blatant noise barrage with vengeance soon after Gordon’s back was turned.

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BACK TO CITY HALL: Complaints to Marietta Allaga, chief of the IA urban planning and community development office, have not stopped the nuisance despite her promise to look into it.

Is a noisy watering hole beside residences part of Allaga’s urban planning? Is it a worthy contribution to tourism promotion so carefully programmed by Gordon? Do we have to wait till IA’s inaction leads to residents tangling with toughies from the offending bar-resto?

Btw, even the beams used in building the entertainment joint were just stuck by the owner into the private walls of the neighboring residential structures. Has IA checked on this illegal shortcut?

If Intramuros were under City Hall, we’re sure we would have a more peaceful district worthy of the historic legacy of the Walled City. Maybe it’s time to give Intramuros back to City Hall.

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IRAQI TRIAL: After the capture of fugitive Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in a dugout near his hometown Tikrit will come his trial for crimes against his own people. The question is who will try him and under what laws?

If the crimes pertain to his brutal crushing of opposition in Iraq — note the alleged torture and brutality, mass executions, plunder of the nation’s riches, and such — the Iraqi leader must be tried by his own people under Iraqi laws.

It would be a mistake to allow his trial to leave the impression that it was being orchestrated by the United States through its local lackeys.

But how can such a high-profile all-Iraqi trial proceed when there is as yet no viable indigenous Iraqi government? To assign this task to the US-sponsored transitory government would leave the process reeking of Yankee bias and influence.

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U.S. AIDED SADDAM: To go around the need for a purely Iraqi trial, Saddam’s accusers and prosecutors can internationalize his case by citing his other alleged violations “against humanity,” including his invasion of sovereign neighbors such as Iran and Kuwait.

But this will highlight the fact that when Iraq waged war against Iran, for instance, Saddam was acting as a surrogate of the US. Washington pushed and supported Saddam in his war against the Khomeini, who was then at the top of the hate list of Washington.

This is no different from the mujahideen, the guerrillas in Afghanistan who were organized, trained and financed by the US Central Intelligence Agency to drive out the Soviets some 20 years ago.

The same fighters who were hailed as patriots were later called terrorists when they fought American forces invading their country in search of Al Queda leaders and their Saudi supporter Osama bin Laden linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, bombing in New York and the Pentagon.

Bringing in the United Nations in an alternative trial would also bring in more legal and political complications. So, meantime, we just sit back to watch the movie unfold under the direction of Uncle Sam.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 16, 2003)

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