POSTSCRIPT / May 12, 2019 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Voters all set, but is Comelec ready?

SOME 61 million Filipinos are prepared to cast their vote tomorrow, but is the Commission on Elections ready for the nationwide exercise that could turn ugly if mismanaged?

The question is being asked on the eve of Election Day, because disturbing issues continued to swirl around the Comelec until yesterday on factors affecting the holding of an orderly and honest midterm election.

Many voters have complained that their names were missing from the lists, that Comelec’s online Precinct Finder was not working, that SD (Secure Digital) cards of hundreds of voting machines had been corrupted, that some ballot marking pens were smearing, that the accreditation of the poll watchdog Namfrel had been disapproved, that the opposition party designation had been given to the Nacionalista Party making it a kind of “company union” working with the Duterte majority party, etc.

The election would have the effect of telling President Duterte whether to continue his style of governance or make major adjustments based on the messages inferred from the issues raised and the votes cast.

Such messages may be gleaned from the votes for or against the candidates for whom he has campaigned assiduously and poured government resources to make them win.

By its very nature, an election is divisive. To determine the will of the majority or of the greater number, the body is divided by way of a democratic voting process that could be painful or injurious for some of the contending parties.

The test of an election and of the people involved is not only in how honestly it decides the will of the dominant number, but also how it heals the temporary rifts created by the push and pull of the divisive process.

In this healing, in the returning to normalcy, the help of everybody – the winners, the losers, and their partisans – is needed in gaining the acceptance of the verdict of the greater number and moving forward to promoting the higher common interest.

We hope that unkind remarks about opponents, likely made in the heat of passion, will not linger but be forgiven and forgotten. But we can understand these possible exceptions:

*If there was cheating in a manner and on a scale that has tilted or reversed the results to deprive a candidate of his rightful victory. Since a crime has been committed, prosecution must proceed.

*If serous crimes have been recklessly imputed against a candidate with malice and without proof, thereby impugning his fitness for office, the victim must confront his accuser in court after the election.

These two situations, among other possible conflicts, may make the post-election healing long and difficult not only for those directly damaged but also for the entire nation. This worst-case scenario is scary, considering that we have become a deeply divided nation under Duterte.

… Before leaving the topic, let me clarify the opening paragraph of my Postscript last May 9 that a few readers mistook for an endorsement of 12 senatorial bets. It was too late to catch the PhilStar pressrun, but I was able to correct it in my website and posted a clarification on Twitter saying: My May 9 Postscript column mentioned 12 senatorial bets. This may have been mistaken by some as endorsement. IT IS NOT. I have deleted the 12 names. See:

 Duterte flirts with mayor in public

TO GIVE Filipinos an idea of the lurid things people abroad read about President Duterte, we share these excerpts from a “Coconuts” item carried the other day by Yahoo about his sexist remarks to a lady mayor when his party campaigned Wednesday in Bohol:

“(Duterte) told the mayor she’s so gorgeous, he would hold on to the garter of her panties to stop her from ever leaving him… The object of (his) attention was Mayor Tita Baja-Gallentes of the town of Garcia Hernandez, who was also on stage.

“In his speech in Cebuano, Duterte said: ‘(You) are truly beautiful. If it were me, why would I ever break up with you? I will really grab and hold on to your panties if you try to leave, even until the garter snaps. You’re just too beautiful.’

“Most people would be shocked and speechless if they hear such an odd statement, but according to (a Philippine daily), the crowd actually laughed at what Duterte said.

“’Actually, I’m not trying to pull your leg,’ Duterte told Gallentes, according to the (daily). ‘But the truth is I heard, if I may (be) allowed to say it in public and it will not offend you, you and your husband are separated.’

“Wooing Gallentes further, he asked her if she wants to elope with him. ‘Can you run away with me? You have children, don’t you, mayor? How many children do you have? I have three, four. I have four but they’re all grown up already so I don’t have a problem there anymore.’

“Duterte then jokingly asked his former special assistant, Christopher ‘Bong’ Go, to take care of his partner Honeylet Avanceña when he goes away with Gallentes.

“Speaking with Go, Duterte said: ‘Please take care of my wife while I’m away. I am here in Bohol to play. To play the game of love.’

“Duterte also took it upon himself to tell Gallentes that he is no longer seeing Agusan del Norte Gov. Angel Amante-Matba, someone he apparently used to date, Politiko reported.

“But we are no longer together, mayor. You might have heard. No more. I had a landslide win (in 2016) in her province. And that’s because of love. If her husband is listening: Sir, we don’t have anything going on right now. We only have memories,’ he said.

“Duterte has come under fire for a number of sexist and misogynistic statements since becoming president. In February 2018, he ordered soldiers to shoot female rebels in the vagina. In December, he said that he molested his family’s domestic worker when he was a teenager, a statement that his spokesman later said was untrue.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 12, 2019)

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