In the last mid-term elections, there was only the non-vote in Maguindanao that proved to be a cliff-hanger in proclaiming the twelfth "winner" for senator of the realm.
That it eventually became Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon over Koko Pimentel of Cagayan de Oro showed how choosing between two Mindanaoans became all too easy for the province of Maguindanao. After all, no elections are held in that most benighted of all the provinces of this benighted land. It was only who Ampatuan chose, and whose "votes" Lintang Bedol counted. The Comelec in Manila, corrupt as it is to the core, was reduced to mere toadies of Ampatuan and Bedol.
But there were two cliff-hangers in the local elections that caught national attention. One was the shameless withholding of the proclamation of the winning Len-Len Alonte as mayor of the municipality of Biñan in my native Laguna. Only because her protagonist was the son-in-law of the now hopelessly disgraced Benjamin Abalos, chairman of the Commission on Electoral Cheating.
The other was the refusal of the same Comelec to proclaim a clear winner in the vice-gubernatorial race of the neighboring province of Batangas. Leading by close to 19,000 votes, Mark Leviste had to agonize for 48 days after election day before the Comelec finally acceded to his proclamation, almost on the last day provided by our Constitution for changing officers. Why? Because he made the mistake of challenging the obsession that the right powerful Eduardo Ermita, executive secretary of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which was to have his son Edwin, previously rejected by the province, finally become prinsipito ng Batangas.
But once more the people of Batangas rejected his son Edwin, despite massive resources, and running with the immensely popular Vilma Santos. By a lead of 18,600 votes and post-electoral magic notwithstanding (Namfrel credited him with a projected bigger lead before it stopped its canvass), Leviste trounced the son of the ex-general, ex-congressman, ex-DND secretary and now Gloria’s right hand man. Which Edwin’s old man could not accept. How could he allow his son to lose in his province, he who is primus inter pares in the cabinet of Doña Gloria, conseilleur sans pareil of the Boss Woman misma?
And so Benjamin Abalos and Resurreccion Borra dutifully stopped the proclamation of the winner, until time ran out on their schemes. Media focused on the obvious abuse of power where Ermita’s son and Abalos’ son-in-law were losing and could not accept honorable defeat.
In the case of Biñan’s Alonte, an extraneous incident occurred after the elections. Joey de Venecia blew the lid on Yatco’s father-in-law’s indecent participation in the scam of the decade, a national broadband deal done in the boudoirs of Shenzhen. The father-in-law decided finally to take the rap for deal so grossly overpriced, and resigned in shame from the Comelec which at his helm became so grossly disgraced as well.
But in the case of the harassed Leviste, Resurrecion Borra assumed temporary chairmanship. And he is likewise the chair of the first division of this quasi-judicial body. And after the resignation of Abalos, an unknown called Moslemen Macarambon suddenly erupted into the scene, appointed by Mr. Ermita’s GMA, and assumed the seat vacated by Abalos. That’s when the first division suddenly marched to the tune of the piper ensconced in the stinking palace beside the stinking river.
To be sure, the amazingly power-obsessed Mr. Ermita took in a youngish lawyer learned in the arts of Garcillano and Roque, they who would have elevated the art of cheating into an exact science, had not Garci’s indecent conversations broken his spell. This election operator who gives the legal profession the slimy reputation it has been of late associated with went into action and operationalized a scheme which was used in the 2004 electoral case filed by Sonia Torres Aquino against the duly-elected Mayor Corona of Tanauan, also in Batangas. It worked then, aided by bagfuls of money delivered to the right hands in Intramuros. How could the scheme not work where Intramuros marches to the tune of Malacañang, and the piper is the second most powerful man in the land (with apologies to Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo y Tuason, of course)?
So Leviste won by close to 19,000? Easy. First, file the protest, and make sure it gets to a division with members willing to cooperate or easy to pressure. Next, get the willing treasurers and the willing mayors of a few municipalities to open the ballot boxes in their stewardship, and get the operators to switch the real ballots with fake or spurious ones. So, when the ballot boxes are opened by the Comelec once the revision process starts, the sly operator-cum-lawyer shouts "Voila!, No wonder Leviste won. His ballots are fake, and that’s what the ER’s counted." A dutiful Comelec will then void the fake ballots, and Leviste’s lead gets erased in no time. Neat!
But something like this could only be effected if cooperative mayors and their treasurers are co-opted. No problemo! Para que estamos en poder, nan desu ka? Papa is in Malacañang, ano ka?
And you would need the Comelec to cooperate likewise. No problemo! Macarambon, Garci’s fraternity brod, was appointed by certification of the Executive Secretary, and will need to be re-appointed and re-appointed because the Commission on Appointments will keep questioning his sparse and dubious credentials time and again. Papa is in Malacañang, ano ka? As for Borra, wasn’t he cooperative in May and June, 2007? Surely Papa knows the secret ways to get him to cooperate even more. Perhaps an ambassadorship to Timbuktu? Or a juicy directorship in some government corporation after he retires in February? Leave it to the amazing powers of Mr. Ermita.
And so, magically, Number 32 in a docket of 35 cases assigned to the first division suddenly becomes top priority! Why not go by the order in which the cases were elevated to their attention? "That’s the discretion of the Comelec", was the curt reply. What Ermita wants, Ermita gets.
And then, the same Comelec waived a pre-condition they always insist upon when it comes to protests. Even if the protestant Ermita had yet to fully pay the required revision fees of P4.8 million, they started revising last November 27. Iba na ang malakas!
Now the young Leviste gets to feel the amazing, awesome powers of the father of Edwin. Even in Sto. Tomas from where the Leviste clan hails, his lead of almost 10,000 votes is in danger of being wiped out by an avalanche of fake ballots surreptitiously stuffed inside the ballot boxes. Who’s the mayor of Sto. Tomas? Why, the wife of his gubernatorial candidate, mismo! Talagang matindi ang Ermita.
The second most powerful man in Philippine officialdom is who the young Mark Leviste is up against. The awesomely powerful man bows only to women. First his Boss Woman, but naturally. And an Iron Lady whom Batanguenos call aptly "Thatcher" who comes from a Cebuano-speaking province in Mindanao. And another whose name is only whispered about. She comes from another Southern province, where they speak in a languorous, mellifluous cadence similar to Rolex Suplico’s sing-song. Wasn’t she a school mate, Rolex?
Kawawang Mark. Kawawang Batangas.
I used to work for Doy Laurel, and was impressed particularly by impression by the honorable battle-honesty by which they fight their contests. They may womanize, some may steal even, some are STL and jueteng lords, but cheat in elections, no way. Why, their forebears almost rose up in arms when one of their own, Jose P. Laurel, was cheated in national elections in a province called Lanao, where the "birds and bees" voted.
But birds and bees have become obsolete. All you need these days are smart, immoral and amoral operators, fake ballots, and the concupiscence of election officers. But all these can only be triggered when you have lots of money and lots of power. As I said earlier, "no problemo." Papa is the second most powerful man in the officialdom of a country where cheating and lying and stealing are "normal" and "accepted."