THE GHOSTS of the last elections haunt Lanao del Sur and they refuse to rest. They will not go away. They flit about, seeking resolution. So when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani, the commander of the Marine brigade stationed in the province during the last election, testified in the Senate in September, saying that he had been mysteriously relieved from his post two clays after the voting, the ghosts were roused again. Days after the Senate hearing, Gudani and one of his officers, Marine Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan, were sent to court martial for refusing to heed their superiors’ orders not to testily. The ghosts, having been roused, are now rattling even more noisily than ever before.
SUPPORTERS of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spent more than P22 million in advertisements in major Manila dailies in the period of just three-and-a-half months since the “Gloriagate” crisis began.
But was it money well spent? Public-relations and advertising experts on both sides of the political divide agree that it is unlikely the ads changed many people’s minds. They were mainly a show of strength.
POONA BAYABAO, Lanao del Sur — “Fernando Poe, Fernando Poe.” With clenched fists and his right hand raised, octogenarian Hadji Mohammad Monte repeated the name of the late action star like a mantra when asked whom he voted for in the last presidential elections. He insisted that Poe was number one among the residents of this town where the late king of Philippine movies was — and still is — very popular.
THERE ARE virtually no farms in Las Piñas, Parañaque, Quezon City and certainly not in Makati. Yet these overbuilt and densely-populated cities were among at least 100 congressional districts that, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA), needed P1.8 billion in farm inputs and implements in February 2004, just when the presidential campaign was kicking off.
IN THE May 2004 elections, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo maintained a campaign organization so elaborate it even included a group dubbed “Special Ops,” an infamous abbreviation for “special operations” that many equate with “dirty tricks,” or cruder still, poll cheating.
PITY party-list organizations. Although Republic Act 7941 reserves 20 percent of House seats for these groups, which are supposed to be from marginalized sectors whose interests are not represented in Congress, the reality is that it is difficult for them to win votes. That’s because Filipinos are still mostly uninformed about the party-list process and the Commission on Elections has done nothing in terms of a voter-awareness campaign to remedy the situation.
THE COMMISSION on Elections has a lot to account for, with some of its “mistakes” running into billions of taxpayers’ pesos. Ironically, some of its costliest errors had started out as a means to improve the election process and minimize voting irritants
TO DESTROY an institution like the Commission on Elections (Comelec), you must first fill it up with handpicked commissioners with questionable credentials and even more dubious impartiality. Then, let them run the constitutional body as if they were ruling over personal fiefdoms. This would then reduce middle-level bureaucrats to mere vassals doing — or forced to do — their every bidding, including perhaps, as the taped conversations involving President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano suggest, rigging the elections in their political benefactor’s favor.
TODAY the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stands on the edge of the abyss. Will she fall or can she pull back from the brink?
This crisis is not only the most serious in her four-year presidency, it challenges the viability of Philippine democracy as well.
AT LEAST Panfilo Lacson tells it like it is — or how it could be. Elect him as president and we could probably expect someone like Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, or Thailand’s Thaksin Shinawatra at the helm. All three are known for being, as the TV ad says, “buo ang loob, walang takot (determined, without fear),” traits that supposedly enabled them to steer their countries into becoming economic powerhouses. According to the ad, Lacson has the same traits as well, and its logic argues that these would enable him to do wonders for the Philippine economy, too.