Sunday, July 5, 2009

Comelec: Garbage in, garbage out

For a moment, the garbage bin’s cover was shaken ajar and the stink came out. A party to the computerized voting system cried “foul,” breaking up the partnership between Smartmatic and TIM for a while, even though the reasons were never clear. Whether it was, as one report says, about P500 million pesos that TIM wanted or, as another points to, a quarrel over the system’s operational control, other suspicious angles arose, with one partner on the TIM side, an Arroyo oligarch-crony that was also linked to the NBN-ZTE scam, given free rein to store and transport voting machines beyond the watchful eyes of government overseers. Why did such a messy set-up get the Comelec’s nod in the first place, in a bidding that ended up as a negotiated deal with so many questions still unanswered?

For this, I re-watched Robin Williams’ “Man of the Year” about a comedian who runs for the presidency out of sheer disgust over the traditional politics prevailing in the US. Co-star Laura Linney plays a computer expert for a certain firm named, Delacroy, who discovers a glitch in her company’s election tallying program and reports it to the top corporate brass, who, instead of correcting it, which would have cost the company dearly, tries to silence her and fakes her suicide. Williams goes on to win the presidency but Linney confronts him with the truth before his inauguration. Williams remains skeptical at first until a murder attempt on Linney’s character convinces him to renounce his victory on Saturday Night Live with a caveat to the nation: “Don’t put your faith in a machine that has less controls than a Las Vegas slot machine.”

As my favorite computer expert Mr. Manuel “Mano” Alcuaz says, “With the manual system, we know there will be cheating but we can find the cheating. With the computerized voting, we don’t know if there will be cheating, but if there is cheating, we won’t even be able to find the cheating. When there are people in power who are determined to cheat, they will cheat.” Here, we are not only talking of Gloria Arroyo herself but all her cohorts implicated in the treason and massive kleptocracy that have become hallmarks of this government’s past nine years. They include the Davide Supreme Court, the police top brass like Ebdane and Mendoza, and the Makati elite who are Gloria’s cronies today.

Comelec patched up the differences between the two quarreling partners last week. Though citizens’ monitoring arms such as the PPCRV told the public that they are prepared in case things revert back to the manual voting system, what’s being left unsaid is that the manual system, which could have saved the country some P7 billion pesos, could have also rendered manual cheating next to impossible to slip under the public radar, due to the nation’s experience with “Hello, Garci” and “Hello, Bedol.”

But then, Melo had to go out of his way, and out of his mandate, to act as an arbitrator. Now, Comelec and Smartmatic are promising “dream polls,” yet garbage in three days is still no different from garbage in thirty days. Any comparisons made with the “efficiency” of Indian electronic voting is still erroneous because India conducts it in a parliamentary and regional voting scheme that is spread out over a month and not a one-day period.

Cheating is going to happen--through the voting machines and/or other means, like the National Printing Office snafu where more smoke is again billowing from missing poll equipments, which the Tribune yesterday reported. Melo keeps trying to project a determination to conduct clean polls when such is impossible under Gloria. In the same way that Melo’s previous efforts to investigate “extra-judicial killings” never went beyond Palparan, to his being the legal consigliere to disgraced former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos at the NBN-ZTE hearings, he is, as one lawyer puts is, merely “using his venerable age and stature as retired justice to pull the wool over the public’s eyes,” which is the worst kind of deceit I can think of.

No real change can be hoped for from elections while the Gloria Arroyo regime rules. A retired general told us in a private kapihan that the only way to “cause a realignment in the military” is to take Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Trillanes out of detention to lead again; to which another said, “President Estrada will have to come out to support them because he is the only one with the constitutional legitimacy to assume authority in such a scenario, and hold elections as soon a possible.”

That’s the “Constitutional Clock” theory that Atty. Alan Paguia maintains to this day. And since parallels are being drawn between the Philippines and Honduras , we should say that what Estrada has is what Honduran President Manuel Zelaya possesses that compels governments all over the world to sustain his legitimacy despite him being physically taken out of office by the military on orders of the oligarchic Honduran Congress and Supreme Court.

President Estrada’s clock of destiny continues to tick no matter what scenario unfolds in the coming months. Everything that has entered the picture to this day, from Gloria’s usurpation of power to the “garbage in, garbage out” conduct of elections under Melo’s Comelec, has so far remained illegal. Like in Honduras , detractors of the deposed president are merely distracting everyone from the main issue--the sovereign will of the people. Whereas Estrada was elected by the majority and deposed by a corrupt few, Zelaya too was only consulting the people but prevented by a corrupt elite from doing so.

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