POSTSCRIPT / May 16, 2004 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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FPJ to discover soon that he was just used

BEST PATIENT: Confined in a hospital room and reduced to keeping tabs of the election count by TV, I find this item emailed by Dr. Mike T Galang from Brookfield, Wisconsin, a good starter for this Sunday column:

Five surgeons are discussing who makes the best patients to operate on.

The first surgeon says, “I like to see accountants on my operating table, because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.”

The second responds, “Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is color coded.”

The third surgeon says, “No, I really think librarians are the best; everything inside them is in alphabetical order.”

The fourth surgeon chimes in, “You know, I like construction workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the end, and when the job takes longer than you said it would.”

But the fifth surgeon shut them all up when he observed: “You’re all wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There’s no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains and no spine, and the head and the ass are interchangeable.”

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IT’S CONGRESS, STUPID!: Poring over the newspapers spread on my bed, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It says here that the Commission on Elections was to start yesterday the canvassing of the votes for national candidates and looked forward to its early proclamation of winners for national posts.

As we keep pointing out, it is not the Comelec but Congress that will canvass and proclaim the winners for the national positions of president and vice president. Many reporters still have to learn this basic fact.

It says here also that the Philippine National Police gave assurance that the “winning president and vice president” will be proclaimed in early June.

What? Have the police usurped the task of scheduling the proclamation of the president-elect and the vice president-elect? I thought our police are just to stand guard over the congressional canvassing.

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CONFUSE THE ENEMY: We also read days ago a similar report that presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye was asking the opposition to keep cool and wait for the Comelec to complete its canvass of the votes for president and vice president.

Let’s be kind to over-stressed Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos. Passing on to him the national canvass assigned by the Constitution to Congress might send him back to the hospital on a stretcher.

Or was Bunye merely playing tricks on the opposition — to stampede some neophyte politicians on the other side into rushing to the Comelec to deploy there and wait for a canvass that would never happen in the premises?

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POE WAS JUST USED: Soon enough, opposition presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. will wake up to the cruel fact that he was just used. He’s been had.

At the time politicians on the wane were egging on Poe to run, they figured that his box office popularity was enough to overwhelm President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the polls.

They were probably right. Early opinion polls by all reputable survey outfits confirmed it.

That Poe was utterly unprepared for the presidency was immaterial to the plotters. What was material to them was that the action king of Philippine movies had the pulling power to dislodge Ms Arroyo.

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PROXY WAR: Poe hesitated. He had reason to, because he knew his limitations. Besides, he did not have a political machine or a bulging war chest to carry him to victory.

No problem, the grizzled politicians and their financiers assured him on all counts.

So the neophyte swallowed hard and went to fight a proxy war that his sponsors assured him he was sure to win. At that time, he was virtually a sure winner, in more ways than one.

But a lot of things happened before May 10 that stalled the actor’s march to Malacanang with a gaggle of expiring traditional politicians and financiers pushing from behind.

He lost, and he does not know how to handle it. Da King is suddenly naked.

* * *

NO FAILURE OF ELECTION: As in past elections, some people also got killed this time around. Many voters failed to find their names on the lists. Some goons ran off with election paraphernalia. Boxes were stuffed with spurious ballots. Et cetera.

But these incidents, singly or collectively, do not constitute a failure of the national elections. There could be a failure in some affected precincts, or a barangay or even a town, but not in the entire country.

Statistically, the contested votes in a troubled barangay or town will hardly affect the consolidated votes for national positions in an election where some 30 million votes were cast.

Those who seek public office, especially the presidency or a Senate seat, must be mature and responsible enough to refrain — when losing in the canvass — from inciting people to rise against duly constituted authority or to defy due process.

* * *

STUCK WITH SYSTEM: The votes have been cast and counted. The scores, written on paper forms, are on their slow way to the national capital.

There is not much that a candidate can do except try catching up on his sleep while keeping watch and waiting for the official canvass and proclamation of the winners.

There is no point in his marching in the streets, or inciting the fans with cinematic claims of his winning votes having been stolen.

Anybody claiming to have been cheated should file action in the proper forum, not shout invectives and accusations in the street. It is conduct unbecoming. It is also obstruction of traffic, disturbing the peace, and polluting the atmosphere.

The process is taking too long, we know. But we are stuck with a system that prescribes a slow, cumbersome procedure.

The system, by the way, was laid out by the politicians themselves. Now the same politicians are frothing in the mouth denouncing the Comelec for it.

* * *

NO CRY BABIES, PLEASE: In this regard, we admire Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who stood out during the presidential campaign for being straightforward and level-headed.

Lacson reminded his fellow candidates that before they threw their hats into the ring, they knew what dirty game they were joining. Everybody knew, whether he liked it or not, that there would be cheating and all that.

Philippine politics is not for cry babies and the weak-kneed.

Neither is it for greenhorns who march in with nothing but a bloated ego, induced self-confidence, a faulty assessment of the situation, and a nifty talent fee stashed in the bank.

Lacson said in so many words that if he was cheated despite his knowing in advance that dire possibility and he still failed to prevent it, he hardly has any reason to complain.

It would be different, of course, if a loser had proof of cheating. Then he should go to the proper forum, not to the streets, and file a complaint.

Still, again, if a solitary instance of cheating will not alter the mathematical reality that some numbers are bigger than others, it may not even be worth spending for an electoral protest and roiling the waters.

Unless, of course, somebody else is bankrolling the protests.

* * *

EVARDONE PROCLAIMED: We congratulate former newsman Ben P. Evardone, who at 40 will become the youngest governor ever of Eastern Samar. He was proclaimed winner yesterday by the provincial board of canvassers.

A former assistant executive secretary, Evardone won with a margin of over 26,000 votes against his closest rival, Gov. Clotilde Japson-Salazar. He ran under the Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino.

He asked Eastern Samareños to unite and sought reconciliation with his political rivals, saying “our province needs massive rehabilitation for it to be delisted from the so-called Club 20 composed of the poorest provinces.”

Also proclaimed were congressman Marcelino Libanan, vice governor Leander Geli, board members Cerilo Balagapo Sr., Karen Alvarez, Jovi Opinion, Bondos Aclao, Tito Alido, Generoso Yu, Indo Macabocsit, Fernando Naputo, Enerio Sabulao and Arnold Sabalbarino.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 16, 2004)

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