Saturday, February 27, 2010

What if there is a failure of elections?

By Neal CruzPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 01:07:00 09/09/2009Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Protest, Legislation, Computing & Information Technology

Two senators-to-be talked about electoral reforms at last Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is winning his poll protest against Sen. Migz Zubiri, and Grace Poe, daughter of the late unproclaimed president of the Philippines, Fernando Poe Jr., is being drafted as senatorial candidate in the ticket of the movie king’s bosom friend, Joseph Estrada.

As a victim of election cheating, Koko wants to introduce in the Senate bills that would make it difficult for cheaters and make it easier to seek redress for victims of cheating. “It is very expensive and difficult to pursue an election protest,” said Koko. “Your rival can delay the proceedings, and that adds to the cost. Meanwhile, he collects all the salaries and allowances and pork barrel that rightfully belongs to you. And then when you are finally proclaimed the winner, only a few days of the term are left. That works in favor of the cheaters and encourages more cheating.”

“Why not file a bill,” I suggested, “that would freeze all the emoluments, including the pork barrel, of an official against whom a charge of election fraud has been filed that is found meritorious after a preliminary investigation? Whoever is finally declared the winner gets the frozen account. That should discourage cheating. Why would anybody cheat when he cannot collect the fruits of his cheating?”

“I didn’t think of that,” Koko replied. “Yes, I’ll do that.”

“Right now,” I continued, “even if a cheated candidate finally wins in the end, it is an empty victory. Only a few days of the term are left to him and the cheater has already collected almost all of the money that belongs to the winner. The winner is left holding an empty bag. There was one winning candidate who was sworn into the House of Representatives on the last day of the term. The cheater was seen laughing during the oath-taking.”

“There is no crime and punishment in election fraud,” somebody said. “The cheater always wins, no matter who is declared winner.”

“Would you still have any of your senatorial term left when you are proclaimed?” I joked. “Half of the term is gone already.”

“There are still three years left,” Koko replied.

“But it is so easy to delay cases because of the very slow wheels of justice in the Philippines. Shouldn’t electoral tribunals work every day to speed up cases?”
“Dapat. I will work on that,” Koko said. “But the more scary part are the poll syndicates in the Comelec itself. Syndicates operate in some parts of Mindanao and inside the Comelec main office itself. It is not enough that the commissioners themselves are honest. It is their subordinates who are members of the syndicates.”

“Will automation prevent or minimize cheating?”

“Nobody knows for sure. Even the Comelec itself is not sure.”

“In fact, we are not sure if the Comelec knows what it is doing. There are people who have expressed fears that there could be a failure of elections next year. What do you think of that?”

“That is a very real danger,” Koko said. “A lot of things can go wrong.”

“For instance?”

“The battery that powers the voting machine is good only for 12 hours,” Koko explained. “The original plan was for the voters to shade the ballots by hand and then the ballots are later counted by the voting machine. But then the Comelec changed the rules. Now the voter himself will insert his ballot into the voting machine. That extends the working time of the machine. Worse, the Comelec extended the voting time, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. That’s 12 hours. The battery would be empty by 8 p.m. What if there are still voters in the precinct who have not voted?”

“What would happen if there is a failure of elections?”

“The terms of all elected officials end on June 30, 2010. By that time, the newly elected officials should have been proclaimed. But what if they have not yet been proclaimed? What if no president has been proclaimed? Then we have a constitutional crisis.”

“What is the line of succession?”

“After the President, the Vice President takes over, then the Senate President, and then the Speaker. But their terms would all end at the same time, and if no replacements have been proclaimed by then, the positions would be vacant.”

“How about the Chief Justice?”

“The 1987 Constitution does not put him in the line of succession.”

“How about the Senate President?”

“The term of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also ends in June. So there is no Senate President.”

“The remaining senators can elect a new Senate President.”

“But there are only 12 holdover senators and the Constitution provides that the Senate President be elected with at least 13 votes.”

“So shouldn’t the senators elect a new Senate President before the present Congress adjourns?” I asked. “Then we will have a holdover Senate President who can be acting President in case of a failure of elections. Pwede ba ’yon?”

“I am sure there would be some who would question that, but we should do that to prevent a constitutional crisis. JPE can resign as Senate President before Congress

adjourns so a new Senate President can be elected. That Senate President will be the acting President of the Philippines in case there is a failure of elections.”
* * *

Let me now go to the graceful Grace Poe.

She has been largely an unknown quantity in the past in spite of the popularity of her father. But at the Kapihan she showed that she is very intelligent and is well-versed in politics and government. Her bio-data also shows that she was a consistent scholar from elementary school to college, graduating as either valedictorian or salutatorian of her class. Election reform is one of her advocacies, which is only natural because her father was cheated out of the presidency by election syndicates.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Happy Valentine's Day to all!