POSTSCRIPT / May 17, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Vice lords still rule Pampanga politics?

PAGING GMA: President Gloria Arroyo should call down key political leaders of all parties in her native Pampanga and tell them not to tamper with the people’s will as expressed in the May 14 polls.

The proud province of Pampanga, being the President’s base, should be a model province as far as the free exercise of suffrage is concerned. Never mind who wins, basta malinis ang election.

Anyway GMA seems to be already losing her grip on Cebuanos, her favorite fallback. Why does she not go back to her cabalen, to the hearth of her late father Cong Dadong, who need assurance in these difficult times?

The President and her son Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo should also clarify their stand on gambling lords’ virtually deciding — with their use of dirty money — who wins and who loses in Pampanga politics.

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WHO’S WINNING?: It has been three days, almost an eternity, since the ballots were cast in 20 towns and the capital city of San Fernando, yet nobody knows who won the governorship. (Residents of Angeles, a chartered city, do not vote for the governor.)

For two days running until yesterday, a collating of Election Returns and Certificates of Votes (acceptable substitute for ERs) showed Fr. Ed Panlilio leading Kampi’s Lilia Pineda with a margin of 11,000 to 12,000 votes. Reelectionist Gov. Mark Lapid of Lakas has been third.

Suddenly at noon yesterday, a Kampi press conference was called. Reelectionist Vice Gov. Yeng Guiao declared Pineda (who, strangely, was not around) the winner on the basis of ERs borrowed from the Liberal party. He had Pineda leading Panlilio by 10,280 votes.

Later in the day, the Lapid camp found its voice and announced a partial tally showing him on top with 186,289 votes, compared to Panlilio’s 176,694, and Pineda’s 176,101. The catchup attempt hardly registered.

* * *

LOW TURNOUT: Pampanga has from 1.1 million to 1.2 million registered voters, depending on how one appreciates the lists.

With its high literacy rate and civic consciousness, its dynamic media, the perk of being the President’s province, and the heightened interest stirred by the entry of a reformist priest as a candidate, voters turnout was expected to be very high, at least 85 percent.

But representatives of the major parties have been reporting that the turnout last Monday was just 60 to 70 percent. What happened?

The answer may lie in widespread reports that teams with bottles of indelible ink and bundles of money were busy on Election Day paying voters not to show up and marking their forefingers with indelible ink so they could not vote anymore.

This operation was reported in poorer sections where Fr. Panlilio appeared to be a heavy favorite.

* * *

ERS GALORE: Since Tuesday, I have been following from various sources the buildup of ERs and CoVs as the tally progressed to cover the entire province.

The last score I saw at 10:30 a.m. yesterday was a Panlilio tally based on ERs and CoVs from 96 percent of all precincts. It showed Panlilio with 205,283 votes; Pineda, 195,804; and Lapid, 188,059.

At the Guiao presscon, the score given, with 97 percent of the precincts accounted for, had Pineda with 198,107 votes; Panlilio, 187,827; and Lapid, 176,962.

Asked why he had official ERs when Kampi was not a dominant party entitled to ERs, Guiao said Kampi was using the Liberal party ERs with the permission of the Commission on Elections.

* * *

WHAT’S COOKING?: If official ERs objectively carry the correct count, why would the Panlilio and the Pineda groups have conflicting totals based theoretically on the same ERs?

Some observers talking from experience said they sense that one camp might by planning to force a rush proclamation over the objections of the “losing” candidates. This is an old trick, but it still works — thanks to conniving Comelec officials addicted to legal tender.

* * *

KINDS OF PROTEST: There are two kinds of protests: one BEFORE and another AFTER the proclamation of a supposed winner.

If a protest is filed BEFORE a proclamation is consummated, it could prevent or delay the emergence of a valid winner. A winner is proclaimed only after due hearing of the protest.

But if the Comelec hurriedly proclaims a winner, the “loser” can still file a protest AFTER the proclamation. However, the case is likely to drag on while the pretender sits.

In some cases, the protesting loser is eventually declared the winner — but only on the last days of the contested term almost used up by the pretender.

Supporters of Among Ed, as Fr. Panlilio is called, should not allow his being consigned to protesting while a pretender is sitting as de facto governor.

* * *

STOP CANVASS: Earlier yesterday, many cabalens were agitated by the reported suspension of the official canvassing in several towns, including four in the second district. This is the district of President Arroyo, represented by her son Mikey.

Such a dirty trick being carried out in the President’s own district? Nakahihiya!

Stopping the canvass is sometimes resorted to by a losing candidate who needs more time, and usually more millions, to replace or destroy official returns that are not favorable to him.

To foil substitution or tampering, theoretically, official copies of the ERs are given to major parties for reference.

The problem is that a rush proclamation based on dubious Election Returns or fabricated Certificates of Canvass (consolidating the returns) will make a protest pointless, because it normally takes years to resolve a post-proclamation protest.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 17, 2007)

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