Guns, Goons, and Gold used to reign over elections in the Philippines. It still does!
In May 11, 2010, Filipinos will again troop to the polls to elect a new president and a host of other local and national officials. My bold prediction is that the 2010 elections will be no different from the past elections in the country. It will still be fraught with fraud! It has been historically proven over and over again that those in position will do everything to remain at the helms of power and ensure the continuity of their political clout through whatever means possible.
As the people become more vigilant in protecting their right to vote, the high and mighty holding sway in the corridors of power, have not stopped thinking of ways and means to subvert the people's will and rig election results to their favor. Whereas before, elections can be won by simple vote buying, the traditional dirty politicians are now finding this practice to be an ineffective and costly way to win electoral votes. Like viruses, they are quick to adapt to whatever remedies placed in their way.
The incessant and continuing awareness campaigns launched by various cause oriented groups and some religious organizations to raise people's conciousness and resist vote buying are finally yielding positive results. Former President's Estrada's win in 1998 with an unprecedented margin despite the massive resources poured in by his administration-backed opponent made the political strategists of these traditional dirty politicians shift tactics. Not wanting to suffer the same fate as Estrada's opponent in the 1998 election, Arroyo made sure she will win the 2004 presidency against her rival, who was another movie actor just as popular as popular as Estrada and commands the same respect and idolation by the masses. Her four years as carry-over president after Estrada's ouster did not seem to quench her voracious political appetite. She spent these years augmenting her political kitty and spreading her political clout and following. She made sure her party and their cohorts are in control of both houses of congress by bankrolling the political campaigns of local officials who allied with her. She formed political alliances with practically anyone to protect each other and perpetuate their rule. (This she did with the knowledge that come election time, these are the people who will sit in the electoral tribunal which will proclaim the new president and handle all electoral protests.) Grease money, fattened budgets, and payolas freely flowed out of Malacanang to muzzle opposition in and out of the political arena and effectively silence even the most critical in the media circles. Finally, immediately prior to the 2004 elections, she appointed the notorious Garcillano, known for successfully rigging the elections in the southern islands as commissioner in the country's poll body - the Comelec. The rest is now history! She won despite trailing by millions of votes from Day 1 of the counting! She won after questionable votes from the southern islands under Garcillano's administrative sphere were counted. She was proclaimed by an electoral tribunal dominated by her party mates despite the clear evidences of electoral fraud manifested by evidently manufactured electoral returns. She was proclaimed with malicious haste by her lap dogs in the electoral tribunal despite the numerous muffled protests lodged by the minority opposition.
When evidences of and witnesses to the massive election fraud perpetrated by Arroyo in 2004 started coming out, opposition senators conducted a fact-finding probe in the Senate, but Garcillano immediately went into hiding giving Arroyo's political strategists sufficient time to prepare for a defensive stance and silence all witnesses. He surfaced only after Arroyo received assurances her political allies in the Senate will protect her guy.
Today, after 8 years of Arroyo rule, her political appetite seemed to remain still insatiable! To circumvent the one term, six year presidency, her allies in the lower house are pushing for a legislation to change the country's charter and transform the government into a parliament where she can run as the premier! Worst, under the the proposed legislation, her term (as well as those of the proponents of the legislation and other public officials) will be extended for another two years during the transition. This move is being met with grave protests from practically all sectors of the society with some warning of possible widespread violence if the legislation pushes through. But despite the protests, Arroyo's allies in congress are stubbornly and silently pushing the legislation in the guise of having an immediate need to address some pressing economic concerns. Arroyo has since publicly denied any links to these attempts after the local media exposed the new move to push the legislation (despite the fact that her two sons and brother in law, who are members of the congress are major proponents of the same).
The only remaining answer to the continued perpetration of election fraud in the Philippines is sheer vigilance and active participation in the electoral process. As early as now, one year before the elections, let us campaign for massive participation to the 2010 elections. Let us make people aware of the fact that the only way we can protect the sacredness of the electoral process is by participating and being heard through votes that will be counted. Let us be vigilant from today onwards to election day. Let us blogswarm the blogosphere with calls for a clean and honest election in 2010. Let us expose any and all attempts to undermine the people's will.