Equanimity and sobriety are keys to orderly transition in a democracy

Published May 12, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Hours after the start of the partial and unofficial tally of votes for last Monday’s national and local elections began, the top two presidential candidates issued their respective statements.  

Former Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr., who has emerged as the clear frontrunner with a large majority, spoke to his supporters:  

“Kagaya ng aking sinabi, hindi pa tapos ang bilang. Marami na ang nagsasabi na tapos na pero hindi pa talaga kaya antayin natin hanggang maliwanag na maliwanag, mag-100 percent ang pagbilang,”  (Like what I said, the counting is not yet over. A lot of people are saying it’s done but really it’s not. So let’s wait until it’s very clear, until the results are at 100 percent.)

Vice President Leni Robredo also delivered a statement from her home in Camarines Sur. On Tuesday afternoon, after hearing mass at the Naga City cathedral, she spoke anew and reiterated her initial statement: 

Bagaman may hindi pa nabibilang, bagaman may mga tanong pa tungkol sa eleksyon na ito na kailangang matugunan, palinaw na ng palinaw ang tinig ng taumbayanSa ngalan ng Pilipinas na alam kong mahal na mahal ninyo, kailangan nating pakinggan ang tinig na ito dahil sa huli, iisa lang ang bayang pinagsasaluhan natin.” (Although there are votes that have yet to be counted, although there are still questions about this election that need to be addressed, the voice of the people is becoming clearer. For the sake of the Philippines which I know you really love, we need to listen to this voice because in the end, we share one country.) She added a call to her supporters: “Whatever the final results will be, let’s accept them. Let’s accept them because  these will be the source of strength that we all can share.”

These statements are critically important as these set the tone for the manner in which the results of the elections would be accepted by the citizenry — and pave the way for a peaceful transition of power, which is the essence of democracy. 

Since the enactment of the 1987 Constitution, the country has held five elections for a new President and each time, power has been transferred peacefully: from Corazon C. Aquino to Fidel V. Ramos in 1992; from Ramos to Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 1998; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo succeeding herself after the 2004 elections, then ushering in the administration of Benigno S. Aquino III in 2010; and from Aquino III to Rodrigo R. Duterte in 2016. 

Peaceful transition is the hallmark of a vibrant democracy. This is enabled by the orderly conduct of elections and acceptance by the people of its results. The introduction of automated elections in 2010 has facilitated this process, but not without hiccups. Since then, elections have been held in 2013, 2016 and 2019 — and the results have gained national acceptance.

This is why — despite incipient complaints arising from observations on the manner the initial results had been reported — it is vital that the integrity of the election process be ascertained and confirmed.  And this is also why the statements issued by the leading presidential candidates are crucial in maintaining equanimity and sobriety.