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Not for power, but clean, free & honest elections

The outcome of the recent May 13, 2019 National & Local Elections may have already been decided in favor of the Duterte administration as not one Senatorial candidate from the Opposition has won a seat, it is hard to say that it is a victory through ‘clean, honest & free elections’.

On election day itself, NAMFREL​*​ has noted the following of great concern:

Violence in Mindanao – the were incidents of violence in the towns of Datu Piang and Matanog resulting to people unable to vote and the pullout of observers.

Voter disenfranchisement – voters gave up after they were not able to find their names on the list of voters even in precincts they had previously voted.

400 to 600 Vote Counting Machines (VCM) that malfunctioned which caused delays in voting or improvised voting procedures which let to voters being unable to verify their votes. It is estimated that between 600,000 to 800,000 votes may have been compromised and this is enough to influence the results of the election.

Then for 7 hours from 6:15PM of May 13 to 1:19AM of May 14, the Comelec Transparency server did not display results due to a yet-to-be explained technical glitch. When it did, candidates of the Administration had swept the Senate race.

Although the results favoring the administration bets where somehow expected given the President’s all-time high popularity rating, what came as a surprise was a sweep of all 12 seats in the Senate. Looking at the party-list elections, the anomalies, violence and lack of transparency has raised doubts about the results.

Noticeable are the following:

Anakpawis received zero votes in precincts where the group had members registered votes, including Caloocan and Valenzuela cities.

In Cagayan province, where Anakpawis has 20,000 members, the party polled only 8,000 votes.

Kabataan partylist received fewer votes in areas where the size of its chapters should have generated higher counts, such as Samar and Benguet provinces and Malabaon City.

ACT Teachers said an area in Iloilo province where the party had consistently drawn more than 700 votes gave it just seven.

Gabriela said they received significantly fewer votes this year in areas that consistently gave it much higher votes in the past elections.

Bayan Muna also experienced the same shaving of votes in areas that have given it increasing number of votes. Although it is no. 2, the gap with the number 1(the partylist of Tulfo) is way to great a figure.

Arkibong Bayan, Facebook post, May 17, 2019

All of these cast doubt on the integrity of the elections. The COMELEC whose duty and reason for existence is the conduct of ‘clean, honest and free elections’ should take the lead in being transparent and allowing access to the election data and servers for auditing. While it’s easy to say that the Left is once more just making noise for being sore losers, it conveniently ignores the many incidents that took place throughout the country last May 13 that has now cast doubts about the results.

Others will mask their bias with wit by asking the Left to present evidence to back their claims of cheating and fraud. While it is correct that the burden of proof is on the one making the allegations, such proof will depend on how transparent the COMELEC will be since the primary source of evidence, the Automated election system, is under their control.

If the COMELEC will grant the petitions for transparency and seriously look into the allegations, it will vindicate both the poll body and most specially the administration candidates as it will remove any doubts to the new mandates they have received from the electorate. The Left is not crying foul because it wants to have more seats in government, it is only after ensuring that our elections are clean, honest and free. Consistent to their cause, the Left is fighting not to win more seats, but for the true will of the people to be heard and respected.

It is a win for all if the election results are proven to be accurate and credible. It’s a win for all if those who made election law violations will be punished. It’s a win for all if we are able to ensure the recent elections have been clean, free & honest.


  1. ​*​
    NAMFREL NOTES ON ELECTION DAY
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Opinion

For an independent & progressive Senate

On May 13, 2019 Filipino voters would troupe to election precincts and cast their votes for 12 new Senators of the Republic. Given what the Duterte administration has done in the last three years, what it is currently doing and what it intends to do for the remaining time it is in power, the results of the Senatorial elections will be very crucial. To put it lightly but bluntly, we cannot screw up.

A quick rundown of what the key issues are: our national sovereignty up for sale with our lands, waters and other resources being offered to China; changing our Constitution to favor dictatorial and tyrannical designs and to entrench the self-serving ruling class; the imposition of more laws that will burden the poor majority; the complete restoration of the Marcoses in power; the continuing attack on journalists, activists, human rights advocates and indigenous peoples; the truth that drug lords remain free to operate while thousands of poor have died without due process.

These will get worse if candidates who are not only imcompetent and undeserving of a Senate seat and worse, who by words, deeds and legislative record would just kowtow to Duterte’s desires and designs will be elected.

It is paramount then, nay, it is our duty and obligation to use our ballots to elect a Senate that is independent and restore some sense of dignity, duty and concern for the common good in our democratic systems.

To achieve this, I urge our fellow voters to consider and support the following candidates:

Neri Colmenares

Leody De Guzman

Ernesto Arellano

Sonny Matula

Allan Montano

Chel Diokno

Erin Tanada

Samira Gutoc

Pilo Hilbay

Nancy Binay

Bam Aquino

Serge Osmena

The list is made up of men and women of principles. They have exhibited intelligence and openness to working with others across ideologies and have shown independence of mind.

Neri Colmenares is one of the most popular candidates from the opposition. A veteran of the parliament of the streets, he made his name for being a human rights lawyer himself being a victim of rights abuses during the martial law years of the Marcos dictatorship. His track record in the House of Representatives is proof that he is a champion of the poor and marginalized – increased pension for SSS, opposing unreasonable rates increase by Meralco, Free Mobile Disaster Alerts Act and many more. Despite being red-tagged by the government and targeted by misinformation campaigns, Colmenares remains untainted by corruption.

From the Labor Win coalition comes Leody De Guzman who heads the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Ernesto Arellano, founder of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Sonny Matula, president of Federation of Free Workers and Labor lawyer Allan Montano. Electing them to the Senate will ensure that laws will be crafted to serve the common good and the common man. Living wages, ending ‘endo’ and strengthening unions will be much easier to achieve if these leaders would get a Senate seat. They are free of corruption and are not beholden to any oligarchs or private interests.

Samira Gutoc has really captured my interest with her fiery passion about the issues besetting Mindanao and our Muslim brothers. Chel Diokno will ensure the respect for due process and the rule of law will be on the Senate’s agenda. Erin Tanada and Pilo Hilbay will help secure and defend our sovereignty. Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay and Serge Osmena will be great assets to ensure an independent Senate.

I enjoin everyone to look into their backgrounds and track records. Their positions on the key issues enumerated earlier are worth the consideration, so much so that it would merit your vote.

Karl Marx once wrote that “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.” Come May 13, we get the chance to select leaders that will truly represent us and help us struggle against our own repression.

Categories
Opinion

#HINDIdependenceday – Can we repeat something we did 122 years ago?

History doesn’t repeat itself, we repeat history.

It’s my favorite quote by historian Ambeth Ocampo which, to me, simply means that if we do not learn anything from history or our past, we are bound to repeat it. Tragically or ironically or both, we Filipinos seem to have the collective habit of repeating the ‘bad parts’ of our history.

Take yesterday for example, our “Independence Day” commemorating the proclamation of independence by Emilio Aguinaldo 120 years ago. To be clear, that “independence” was from Spain which had colonized and ruled our islands for almost 400 years. We say and put emphasis on “independence from Spain” because shortly after that proclamation at Kawit, Cavite, we came under American occupation and colonization.

Ironically, the Act of Declaration of Philippine Independence contained the following:

“And having as witness to the rectitude of our intentions the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America, we do hereby proclaim and declare solemnly in the name by authority of the people of these Philippine Islands,”

Our history textbooks call this “benevolent assimilation”, the US subjugating our islands, robbing us of our independence, pillaging our natural resources and murdering thousands of our forefathers. Ironically, again, the same history textbooks fail and are even completely silent about how the US occupation was facilitated by our past leaders, led by the man who made the proclamation 120 years ago. He did not only proclaim our so-called independence that was “dependend” on a foreign power, he also proclaimed himself “egregious dictator.”

Which brought us to yesterday’s June 12, 120 years later independence still continues to be something complicated for our nation, succinctly captured in this photo by Christine Avendaño for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, taken before Rodrigo Duterte delivered his Independence day speech:

In the ordinary course of things, the photo would have been just one of the many that will serve as a memory of today’s programs. However, in the context of what has happened and what is happening in terms of the Duterte administration’s ‘pivot to China’ vis a vis China’s occupation of territories in the West Philippine Sea, one cannot find it hard to say that we, at the very least our leaders in government are repeating history once again.

We commemorate our ‘independence’ with all the formalities, speeches, parades, photo-ops, holidays, the whole official brouhaha, yet we find our so-called leaders embracing foreign powers that threaten our security, plunder our resources and steal outright from our citizens. We have a representative government yet its Chief Executive has acted and continues to do so in the fashion of a dictator. Dissent and criticism is dealt with violence, political persecution and oppression.

Like Aguinaldo before him, both leaders are surrounded by representatives of the ruling faction of society who has taken turns plundering our national coffers to protect their business interests, propagate themselves in power, collaborate with foreign interests setting aside and perverting the causes for which the Revolution began: freedom to steer our national destiny, taking our place in the family of nations and serving the common good so our people would prosper and our citizens are able to take on the pursuit of happiness.

120 years on, it is clear that the ‘independence’ we commemorate, despite the material and visual trappings, the parades and speeches, remain shallow and wanting. 120 years on our national project remains a complex and complicated work in progress. 120 years on we find ourselves repeating the shameful and disgraceful events of our history. 120 years on, can we not for once repeat something else? Can we not repeat that glorious act we took 122 years back? If you our history, you’d know what I am referring to.

Categories
Opinion

Politics & Religion – INC Leader’s Appointment as OFW Special Envoy

Without doubt, the appointment of Iglesia ni Cristo’s Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo as a Special Envoy for OFW concerns has stirred debate and controversy. Immediately, the topic of ‘separation of church and state’ is raised by both critics and neutral commentators. So it’s important to know what ‘separation of church and state’ really means and if indeed it has been violated by the INC leader’s appointment to a considerable position.

To answer this question I refer to my favorite expert on the Constitution, Fr Joaquin Bernas, SJ. He discussed what “separation of church and state” meant in a column that appeared on the Philippine Daily Inquirer in March 2010:

It is sometimes thought by some that separation of church and state means that church people should not get involved in the hurly burly of public and political life. In other words, they should confine themselves to the sacristy. But to understand the subject properly one must begin with what the Constitution says. The constitutional command says: “No law shall be passed respecting an establishment of religion . . .” Immediately it can be seen that the command is addressed not to the Church but to the State. It is the State, after all, which passes laws. The fundamental meaning of the clause is the prohibition imposed on the state not to establish any religion as the official state religion. We are familiar with the background of this prohibition. Under the Spanish Constitution of 1876, Catholicism was the state religion and Catholics alone enjoyed the right of engaging in public ceremonies of worship. While the Spanish Constitution itself was not extended to the Philippines, Catholicism too was the established church in the Islands under the Spanish rule. As the established church, or the official church, Catholicism was protected by the Spanish Penal Code of 1884, which was in effect in the Philippines. Thus, of the offenses enumerated in the chapter of the Penal Code entitled “Crimes Against Religion and Worship,” six specifically and solely referred to crimes against the Catholic church. We know that one of the immediate effects of the advent of the American constitutional system in the Philippines was the denial to the Catholic church of the privileged position it occupied under Spanish sovereignty. The Philippine Bill of 1902 “caused the complete separation of church and state, and the abolition of all special privileges and all restrictions theretofor conferred or imposed upon any particular religious sect.” The separation, in fact, came earlier than the Philippine Bill, which merely repeated the provision relative to religion in President McKinley’s Instruction, which, in turn, merely implemented Article X of the Treaty of Paris. The constitutional command, however, is more than just the prohibition of a state religion. That is the minimal meaning. Jurisprudence has expanded it to mean that the state may not pass “laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another.”

Also known as the ‘non-establishment clause’ it simply means that the government cannot pass a law that establishes an official religion or laws that favor any and all religions. Does the appointment of INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo as Special Envoy for OFW concerns establish Iglesia ni Cristo as the official religion? No.
Does the appointment favor Iglesia ni Cristo over all other religions? Not necessarily. There are other religious leaders appointed to various government positions and functions which are perfectly legal. Unless of course Manalo was appointed with the specific mandate of serving only OFWs that belong to Iglesia ni Cristo or he starts to behave and carry out his position catering exclusively to his INC brethren. In other words, the appointment is not unconstitutional. Technically speaking.

The controversies dwell on the politics aspect of the appointmen which was made in the aftermath of Duterte’s ordering of a deployment ban to Kuwait which in turn was made in response to the latest case of abuse suffered by Filipina maid Joanna Daniela Demafelis. Her dead body was found in a freezer a year over from when her family last heard from her in 2017.

Some would agree with Malacanan’s argument that Manalo was appointed because of the international network established by Iglesia ni Cristo’s global expansion program establishing congregations throughout the world wherever Filipino expatriates are found. INC is now celebrating its 50th year of global presence. Knowing that timing is everything in politics, it’s easy to say Malacanan has impeccable timing.

INC has welcomed the appointment, painting it as a recognition of its tireless efforts in helping Filipinos abroad. However, it cannot be denied that this assistance effort goes hand-in-hand with its global evangelical mission. That in giving assistance to Filipino abroad, it offers the opportunity of winning them over to join their congregation. In this endeavor, the INC is relentless. It is also in this vein, where concerns about giving the INC an advantage over other religions comes up as raised by Randy David:

Mr. Manalo’s new role will no doubt involve frequent travels abroad, something he has been doing as INC head. While the position carries no compensation, it is hard to imagine that the job will not entail expenditure of public funds. The law prohibiting this seems clear. “No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institutions, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, or minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.” (Art VI, Sec. 29 [2], 1987 Constitution) Even if the government refrains from allocating public funds for Mr. Manalo as he goes about performing his work as special envoy for overseas Filipinos—precisely to avoid violating this legal restriction—one can still argue that his official diplomatic appointment gives undue preference to his church. While other churches are not explicitly excluded from reaching out to Filipinos abroad, the official appointment certainly lends to the Iglesia Ni Cristo a special cloak of authority that belongs to officials of the state alone. And, this is so not just in relation to foreign governments, but, more particularly, when dealing with offices in the Philippine bureaucracy that have anything to do with the concerns of overseas Filipinos. We may have no reason to doubt Mr. Manalo’s readiness to serve the interests of all overseas Filipinos, irrespective of their religious affiliation. But, surely, there is something fundamentally wrong, and perhaps unconstitutional, when one church is placed in a privileged position to promote itself by virtue of the special access to the civilian bureaucracy that is conferred upon it.

Another important question: is Mr Manalo properly equipped for the role that is essentially diplomatic in nature? Being the head of a religious group with a global reach is one thing, dealing with foreign governments in an official capacity is a completely different proposition. With the intricacies of diplomacy and international relations, with all of its protocols, customs and even traditions, one cannot help but wonder what’s the reaction of the Diplomatic corps be like? How many other career diplomats have been by-passed by the appointment? These questions I leave to the experts.

Lastly, the appointment cannot be isolated from the open secret that politicians regularly seek the support of the INC because of its block-voting practice and in return, individuals it endorses gets appointed to various government posts. We go back to Randy David who has pointed it out clearly:

The Duterte administration seems to take this game a notch higher. It has dropped all pretenses concerning the link between religion and politics. Short of actually establishing the INC as its official church, this administration makes no attempt to hide the fact that the Iglesia, which supported the President in the last elections, is its favored church. Both seem determined to keep this partnership strong and enduring.

Mr Manalo’s appointment is unprecedented, while there have been other INC members, some with rank within the congregation, that have been in various government posts, he is the first Executive Minister to hold one. The implications on the inter-play between politics and religion would be profound. Note that a year from now, we will be electing 12 Senators that will shape the fate of the Duterte administration.

Disclosure: The blogger is a convert to the INC. His views and opinions are entirely his own.