Archive for 2010

It’s Everybody’s Concern

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

It’s turning out to be one of the most awaited events of the year. Media networks are all geared up for their coverage, the internet is buzzing with chatter about what might and might not happen, and people are eagerly anticipating what’s in store for them in the coming years.

Some attendees probably prepared their wardrobe weeks in advance, more concerned with what they will wear to the occasion rather than the substance of the proceedings. Indeed, the event has been likened to a movie industry awards night, with reporters and photographers waiting along the sidelines of the red carpet jostling to throw the question “Who are you wearing?” (a question about who designed the outfit) and capture a photo worthy of a spread in the papers.

Even the ordinary Filipino seems to be more interested, compared to years past. I was surprised to read some Twitter messages from students and working people alike expressing their disappointment that a holiday was not declared making it impossible for them to watch the event. Quite unlike previously when either the people were indifferent or even questioned why a holiday had to be declared.

I remember a story told to me years back by one of my dad’s staff. She was rushing to work when a friend asked her why she had to go to the office even if a holiday was declared. My dad’s staff said, “I’m going to the SONA”. The friend said, “Ok, I’ll go with you”. She said, “I’m sorry you can’t. It’s by invitation only.” The friend, flabbergasted, said, “By invitation only? What kind of sauna is that?”

There was a time when people could care little what the SONA was all about, content with only reading about it in the papers the following day. Not only when reports began to give extra focus on who wore what made by whom did the masa take enough interest in news about the SONA, perhaps due to the Filipinos’ fondness of celebrities.

But now, with the overwhelming confidence in President Aquino’s leadership, it seems that the people’s interest in what he has to say about the country’s state and what he intends to do about stems from genuine concern.

Technology has also made it easier to monitor the SONA, with social networks in the internet serving as public information tools. Increased accessibility through wireless broadband and live streaming has given those with access to those facilities the ability to view the proceedings live over the internet. Of course, those who are still dreaming of such connectivity have the old reliable transistor radio to rely on.

The SONAs of the past president has always been a show and tell spectacle, not unlike those presented by celebrity storytellers to kindergarten students. Whether they just wanted to show their powerpoint skills or they thought that the people could be mesmerized by the show, it basically led people to take the SONA as just an entertaining event rather than a government’s presentation of what is in store for them.

But it seems with the new President’s first SONA, the people genuinely want to hear what he plans to do for the country. With the overwhelming and unquestionable mandate that he has, much is now demanded from him.

After listening to the SONA, the people should not be left with a feeling of having just been treated to an interesting report from the President. More than just having their eyes opened to anomalies of the previous administration and presented with a smart program of government, the SONA should give the people a feeling of ownership of the challenges faced by President Aquino. The fight for the country’s future is not the President’s alone. It is a shared responsibility between all who would like to see this country move forward.

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SMARTMATIC’S NEGLIGENCE TAINTS CREDIBILITY OF AES

Posted in Governance, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

A curious thing was revealed during the inquiry conducted by the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms. When Smartmatic was asked why there are election returns which bear dates different from the date of the election, they responded by saying that this is a negligible error in that one can still determine the activities of the PCOS machines since the audit logs will show the time frame that it was active.

Simply put, Smartmatic is saying that as long as the audit logs show that the PCOS machine was active only during an twelve-hour period corresponding to the official voting and counting schedule of the elections, there is nothing to be concerned about the election returns having a wrong date and time stamp.

The Smartmatic official’s reply merited not only a terse but a harsh retort from an obviously irritated chairman of the committee Congressman Teddy Locsin Jr., who pointed out that the official’s answer was “ridiculous”. He observed that the erroneous dates on the ER is a breach of security for the election returns. I totally agree.

Logically, the importance of the date stamp on the election returns cannot be downplayed. It is supposed to be the proof that the ballots were read and counted on election day, May 10, 2010. In the old, manual system, the dates manually written determines whether a document is credible or not. In an automated system, it should not be any different. The machine should correctly and faithfully record date and time of the activities of the machine.

Smartmatic tried to downplay the presentation of ERs with wrong dates by saying that with more than 80,000 machines being deployed from their warehouse in Cabuyao where the dates of the machines are supposed to be programmed, there is bound to be a certain percentage which will have errors. What percentage they deem allowable and how many they have actually found to have wrong dates, they did not reveal.

To me, it is an unacceptable excuse. It speaks of poor quality control and security on their part. Setting the correct time in the internal clock of each PCOS machine is an act that should be part of standard operating procedures especially in quality control for such expensive and high-tech equipment. It is expected that it is part of their S.O.P. for the clocks to be programmed in the correct setting before the units are sent to the different jurisdictions.

What makes it really unacceptable is that the law, Republic Act 9369, commonly known as the Automated Elections Law, prescribes that the election returns “shall also show the date of the election” (Section 32). In Section 2 of the law, where terms are defined, Election Return is defined as “a document in electronic and printed form directly produced by the counting machine, showing the date of the election…”

In the election return churned out by the PCOS machine, the only space provided for the manual entry of information are spaces for the signatures of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and the pollwatchers. There is no space for manual entry of the date because the intention is for the machine to automatically put a date and time stamp on the document, supposedly as an added measure of security against fraud.

In my own district there were seven election returns with wrong dates. I won overwhelmingly in my district, placing first among all the senatorial candidates (yes, including all the actors), and my father also won in all precincts. But I do not hesitate to question the performance of Smartmatic particularly on the issue of the wrong date/time stamps. I can perfectly understand the outburst of Cong. Teddy Locsin against the Smartmatic officials, especially since he personally pushed hard for the automated elections.

But such negligence should not be tolerated. Smartmatic should be sanctioned for this irresponsible act which now jeopardizes the credibility of the automated election system and possibly even its results. It would be unfortunate if it comes out that Smartmatic may not be smart after all.

Secretary of Defense Undermining the 2010 Elections and the Looming Victory of Certain Candidates

Posted in Governance, Philippines and the Filipinos, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , , , on April 30, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

The statement of DND Secretary Norberto Gonzales that cheating in the 2010 elections has already begun seems to have no other objective but to undermine the elections and the looming victory of certain candidates

Without naming names, Secretary Gonzales makes it appear that he has reliable information about alleged bribery and pay-offs between political parties and Comelec officials. His public disclosure during the Bishops-Ulama Conference is bereft of any credible reference, but is only backed up by his claim that his information came from Comelec officials themselves.

If his story is true, it is the height of irresponsibility to make such a casual statement with about 10 days left before the elections. He should have mobilized the intelligence resources at his disposal and gathered concrete evidence to support the statement and even publicly reveal the identities of those involved. If he is sincere in stopping election cheating, he should have made steps to bring the culprits out in the open and prosecution.

Instead, Sec. Gonzales is playing a guessing game, teasing the public with a controversy but withholding vital information that only tends to tarnish the credibility of the elections and the expected outcome. Coming from someone who proposed months ago a revolutionary government with President Arroyo at the helm instead of conducting the 2010 elections, it is consistent with his attempts to prevent a transition in the government.

Money in the Time of Elections

Posted in Inner Thoughts, Politics and Politicians with tags , , , on February 28, 2010 by Ruffy Biazon

A candidate who fails to see what’s wrong with handing out money during election season only shows that he has limited understanding of the concept of traditional politics and its ill effects. Worse than the cunning and calculating traditional politician is the naïve and innocently ignorant traditional politician because he is perpetuating the scourge of Philippine political culture and public service without him realizing it.

That kind of tradpol (or trapo, in Philippine political lingo) is personally beyond reform because he thinks he is doing the country a great service although he is unwittingly perpetuating patronage politics. He will always think what he is doing is noble and will only look at those who have an opposing view as detractors to his cause. But for him not to realize the ill effects of his charity, there must be really something wrong with his values orientation and judgment.

What exactly is wrong with giving away money in the time of elections?

Well, it really smacks of vote-buying. During the time of elections, a candidate is only expected to spend money on the production of campaign collaterals, payment of hired personnel, campaign operations and other services. To simply hand over cash to anyone in exchange for nothing, whether voter or non-voter, young or old, male or female, it only serves one purpose—to get votes.

Handing over cash to a child in the time of elections, even if the child cannot vote, only serves to solicit votes for the candidate handing over the cash. Especially if the cash is handed in full view of the public, and even played up in media because during political campaigns, each action of a candidate which is done in public is assumed as a means of attracting votes.

The child who was given money most probably had parents or guardians. Most likely they are voters. And it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the money handed over to the child is indirectly an appeal to the parents or guardians of the child to support the candidate giving the money.

In such a scenario, the appeal goes out not just to the parents or guardians of the child, but also to the observers of the whole event. The message to those who witness such charity is “look at me, I’m so caring I’m giving away money. So vote for me”.

Under normal circumstances, such actions may be considered charity. But during elections, it should be seen as nothing other than vote buying. The circumstances make it so. It might be said that it would be unfair to make that conclusion because the candidate may just be sincere in wanting help, but the circumstances call for better judgment on the part of the candidate giving the money away.

If the candidate had the right sense of values and principles, he would realize by himself that giving money away during elections will only be seen as a political gimmick and perpetuate a practice long identified with the trapo.

A candidate with better judgment, sound discretion and creativity would be able to think of ways to extend help without resorting to giving away money. For example, if a child is hungry, the candidate can buy food and hand it over to the child. There is a world of difference between handing money over to a child and giving the child food to satisfy his hunger, especially during the election season.

To a child, when he receives money from a candidate during campaign season (which they undoubtedly know owing to the streamers, stickers and smiling faces of candidates), he learns that a “good candidate” is a candidate who hands out money. At an early age, their young minds are already being corrupted by practices of traditional politics. What kind of voters will they turn out to be when they grow old?

Having been a candidate myself four times now, I get frustrated and disgusted at voters who return my handshake with the words “wala bang naka ipit na isang daan dyan?” These are the kinds of voters that the young children who were given money by a candidate turn out to be.

A candidate’s failure to discern this effect of this “political charity” says something about his own character and values. It reveals his principles and his views on what the guiding force in the process of selecting the country’s leaders is —“pera pera lang yan”.

Disqualification of BGen. Danny Lim is a Contradiction to Democracy

Posted in Politics and Politicians with tags , , , , on December 17, 2009 by Ruffy Biazon

Brigadier General Danilo Lim’s candidacy is endorsed by three political parties. He is recognized by the Liberal Party as its guest candidate, including him in the party’s line up of senatoriables. His wife Aloy represents the Danny Lim in the Liberal Party’s provincial sorties and campaign strategy meetings precisely because he is one of LP’s candidates.

Danny Lim is faring well in the surveys, and although he is not yet in the top 12, he is within striking distance, way above other candidates whom the Comelec has allowed to proceed with their candidacies. He has an ongoing internet campaign which rivals those of the more monied candidates with an online following which definitely covers the entire country, even beyond.

As a top leader of the Magdalo, which has proven its ability to launch a nationwide campaign and propel a candidate to the Senate, he has an established network on the ground, rivaling other more established political parties.

To me, the decision by the Comelec to disqualify Danny Lim to run for Senator on the gorunds that he is a nuisance candidate because he supposedly does not have the ability to campaign for the senate is a contradiction to democracy. While it is indeed a responsibility of the Comelec to ensure that only the qualified and the serious candidates are included in the list that the people will choose from, it is also their duty to uphold the constitutional right of citizens to vote and be voted upon.

Clearly, BGen. Danny Lim is not a nuisance candidate. He may be irritating to an administration which is sensitive to criticism and calls for reform, but he is definitely worthy to present himself to the electorate and be voted upon.