POSTSCRIPT / May 17, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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No candidate loses, he’s only cheated?

In the Philippines, no candidate for public office loses an election, he is only cheated. So it has been said.

This may be why we have been receiving suggestions that forensic info-tech experts be called in to check suspected cheating and to dig deep into the programs operating the servers at the heart (brain?) of the automated May 9 national elections.

Poll watchers look as election workers feed ballots into a vote counting machine in Manila. Photo: AP/Aaron Favila

But it seems too late to do such a review just to check speculations that secret instructions could have been inserted in the software to give presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. a computer-generated majority of the votes.

It has been noticed that, among other intriguing details, Marcos consistently enjoyed since the start of the count Monday night a certain edge, a fixed ratio of his votes compared to those of his archrival Vice President Leni Robredo.

Some observers said that such an unchanging pattern was a statistical oddity, if not an impossibility, that could only be the product of an instruction slipped into the computers, especially since the votes were streaming in from various areas in the archipelago.

The suggested review would check again the Source Code, the human-readable copy of the software running the Automated Election System. Under the AES law, the code must be checked by all parties at least three months before Election Day.

Source Code review actually started in October 2021. Political parties, cause-oriented groups, and information technology experts were invited to participate. There were attendees from the PPCRV, Aksyon Demokratiko, Partido Federal, NPC, KBL, Lakas, and NAMFREL.

Groups that find the unusual uniformity of the ratio of Marcos’ votes compared to those of Robredo over extended periods of the count may also have to look elsewhere and heed the presumption of regularity.

The transmission of the election returns from all over is almost done. The ERs continue to be consolidated for the national canvassing board composed of senators and congressmen who will convene in a joint session late this month.

What do we tell our children?

Our email box bulges with spirited notes on issues related to the elections. Here’s one from Anna Cristina Tuazon (edited to fit space):

This is the question I’ve been hearing for the last few days from parents and teachers. A large number of the youth, many of them first-time voters, had participated in this election wholeheartedly: attending rallies, joining civic and advocacy groups, and participating in house-to-house campaigns.

After the general listlessness and meaninglessness experienced during the pandemic, it seemed that the youth were hungry for purpose and a source of hope. They saw in the Leni campaign the hope that, yes, they can effect change in the world. That, yes, things can be better. They recognized this as a monumental fight for goodness and, thus, they poured all their passion into this election.

What our youth bitterly learned, unfortunately, is that good doesn’t always win, at least not in each battle. The wave of collective shock, disbelief, anger, despair, and hopelessness on social media was so palpable. The results gave our children mixed messages: Why should they work hard on their studies when apparently qualifications don’t matter? Why should they practice honesty when dishonesty helps you win?

More than any other election in modern times, the despair and grief were so overwhelming that mental health professionals were scrambling to offer grief and social support services, similar to how we would typically respond to typhoons and earthquake disasters. This grief, btw, is not something to be mocked—it is a sign of how much they cared about the fate of the nation. We cannot fault them for that.

The real tragedy is that we have elected leaders who cannot serve as moral leaders. Parents and teachers are struggling to instill values, such as honesty, respect, and kindness, in our youth because the behavior of our public figures and leaders constantly undermines them. How can we teach our sons to respect women when candidates put female supporters on their laps and kiss them on stage? How can we promote respectful communication when our own officials regularly spew foul language?

Moral ascendancy used to matter in this country. Exemplary citizens and public servants help give our children a benchmark of what to strive for. We want role models that inspire our children (and ourselves) to do things to make our world a better place. What happens when our leaders fail to qualify as role models? Lack of moral ascendancy leads to a moral drift. When the world is topsy-turvy and we feel that doing the right thing no longer matters, we get jaded and cynical. We lose our way. We start to lose our sense of meaning behind our efforts.

What do we do when we feel we are drifting toward hopelessness? We must reach for ourselves. It is always a gamble to anchor on the outcome of our intent and actions. Things can easily not go our way, and we risk letting go of hope, something that we crucially need to bounce back. Instead, it is a safer bet to anchor on our principles. As long as we stick to our principles, we can never really lose. They may have won the seats, but they lost their sense of self in the process. Those who lost, but kept true to who they are, can come out of this with their integrity intact.

So we tell our children that we did the right thing. We tell them that winning doesn’t determine the worth of our actions. We tell them that principles are always worth fighting for— they will remind us who we are and what we stand for especially in confusing times. We tell them that leaders—even the ones we rooted for—should not be followed blindly and that being good citizens means we do what is best for our nation, not for our leaders. We tell them we will not give up.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 17, 2022)

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