Rigged fights, fair fights

Published May 18, 2019, 12:18 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

As one of the world’s greatest boxers ever, Manny Pacquiao knows about fair fights and rigged fights. Quite sadly but rather unsurprisingly because he is the PDP-Laban campaign manager, he refuses to apply the same basic rules of fairness and of anti-rigging on the recent May 13 elections.

If the elections were a bout and he was one of the pugilists, he would’ve seen the manager and hangers-on directly meddling in the action, the jury not knowing how to count, and the referee not enforcing the rules.

How can the elections be branded as fair and credible when there were many incidents that even Pacquiao would most probably call patently unfair and incredible?

The P3.7 billion in total adspend is at once unfair. Which candidates would have such access to advertising money other than the candidates of the oligarchy and the elite, who wouldn’t want to be caught not supporting the winner, lest they lose their powerful favor.

The awesome power of the presidency was also unfairly unloaded to provide maximum advantage to Rodrigo Duterte’s candidates. The President’s bully pulpit was used remarkably well to shame the opposition. Exactly how much in public funds was spent in partisan events masquerading as presidential functions, only the Office of the President knows.

Then, there’s the military and police, which were supposedly deputized by the Commission on Elections to help enforce the election laws. Contrary to the law, the AFP and PNP engaged in unlawful electioneering and illegal campaigning against Makabayan partylists and Neri Colmenares. On Election Day, policemen openly campaigned against candidates at many polling centers in Metro Manila.

Far from the attention of city dwellers, massacres were perpetrated against known bastions of Makabayan —peasant communities fighting for land reform. In Negros, a reelectionist councilor who survived Marcos’ Escalante Massacre was gunned down in broad daylight in the last few weeks of the campaign.

Days before the election, the Comelec denied Namfrel’s application to be an accredited citizens’ watchdog. (Namfrel has the manpower and tech know-how to help ensure transparency and credibility of the automated elections.)

Days before the election, the Comelec picked PDP-Laban and Nacionalista Party as the dominant majority and dominant minority parties. Both are part of Duterte’s ruling coalition. Only they would receive copies of Election Returns. None for the opposition.

On Election Day, Comelec admitted the failure of 400 to 600 Vote Counting Machines, the highest number recorded since the adoption of Comelec’s chosen technology partner. Countless SD cards also failed and were found to be defective.

On Election Night, a seven-hour “glitch” denied the public access to national results for the senatorial and partylist races. The Comelec en banc was silent and absent, and just left it to the spokesman to explain away the serious incident with legal-technical gibberish. And so from 0.4 percent at around 7 pm, we were treated to a “shock  and awe” display of 90 percent of results at 1 am.

Mathematicians can only express surprise over the unbelievable and incredible trends, based on figures put out by the untransparent Transparency Server. Only in the Philippines, ika nga.

An assistant secretary at the DILG gleefully posted after the Election on Facebook his congratulations to those who participated in the campaign against Makabayan and Colmenares.

Pacquiao was quick to ask those he calls losers to “accept defeat and move on.” As both senator and campaign manager, he should be concerned. Do those national tallies credibly and accurately reflect the votes after the seven-hour “glitch”? Do the numbers credibly and accurately reflect the strength of “winners” and of the “losers”?

Pacquiao may be disinterested in a fair fight, but we are. Pacquiao may be itching to raise the hands of his partymates, but we aren’t. This is not because we lost and they won, but because how dirty and rotten the fight and the counting have been makes the results suspect.

There is no honor in a proclaiming a stolen or fraudulent victory. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo knows this, and she had to (pretend to) say sorry. The Marcoses know this, too.

The independent watchdog Kontra Daya has called the May 13 elections “the worst ever.” Namfrel, PPCRV, KBP and the CBCP’s social arm have separately and politely asked the Comelec for transparency.

In an automated election, fraud can be committed automatically. In a digital election, millions of votes can be shaved from one and then added to others. We can have fairly accurate and credible counts at the local level, and the crooks who have the means can tamper with results at the national level.

The promised #MalayangHalalan turned out to be a #MadayangHalalan.

Whether one is pro-Duterte or anti-Duterte should not matter in demanding and ensuring fair and credible elections. We hold elections to supposedly get the will of the people, in an exercise where we can freely vote or be voted for. The winners should actually win, and the losers actually lose. The playing field should be even, and those obligated by law to enforce the law should not violate the law by impeding or intervening in the campaign. The referee should not take sides. The count should be accurate and credible. Violators should be penalized.

Pacquiao knows these concepts. They’re the same in any sport. They’re supposedly the same in politics and elections. And so we reject his calls to concede to a rigged fight or a stolen election at the national level.

Good thing, we have a reliable political pugilist and people’s  fighter in Neri Colmenares who said after the elections that we can’t simply concede to dirty elections. We must carry on the fight.