Election 2013

Compared with the last 2010 election, the mid-term election according to Comelec was generally successful. Namfrel agrees but qualifies it, saying some procedures had improved but some had worsened. Since our PCOS worked and I did not have to join the long queue, I guess I would say I was quite satisfied.

At the time of writing, we are watching unofficial and partial returns from the Comelec Transparency count. Yes, the results in the senatorial race confirmed what the surveys said except that I was not prepared to see a newcomer - Grace Poe - leading the 33 hopefuls with a widening margin. And not too far behind at No. 5 is another neophyte, one with no political experience - Nancy Binay who had shunned debates and who, when asked about her background, could primarily cite her being a daughter of the Vice President.

Analysts also note another factor - "revenge" and "sympathy vote" (for Fernando Poe, Grace's father who is perceived to have won the 2007 presidential election). In fact, Grace admits that it was the focus on her father that won for her the top spot. The message of compassion (matulongin) she noted, was what endeared the late Fernando Poe to the masses. But Grace is not only the daughter of a beloved father. In her own way, she projects humility and sincerity. She is bright, talented, respectful, unspoiled, and hardworking - indeed a role model for the young generation.

But how does one explain the vote for Ramon "Jun" Magsaysay, a former senator who has accomplished much during his terms in office, with a famous father, a former president who was greatly loved and revered. But that was a long time ago, and a majority of today's voters were born after the fifties.

This mid-term election is significant as it is seen as a precursor of the political climate in 2016, and as a referendum of the past three years of President Pinoy's administration. Thus, pundits are now at work analyzing voter preference by examining the profile and experience of the national candidates. For instance, early trends in voting clearly indicate a preference for younger candidates. Which is to be expected as a majority (37%) belong to the age groups 18 -24 and 25-34.

Of the 45.5 million registered voters, 70% actually voted in some 36,766 precincts all over the country. Just as AES Watch said - and other groups who did not trust the capacity of Smartmatic to deliver a clean and accurate count - there were a number of glitches - malfunctioning of PCOS machines in some 300 precincts, vote buying, power outage, de-listing of eligible voters and discovery by Namfrel of deceased persons and centenarians whose names still appear in the Comelec list of eligible voters. There were reports of violence but only about 80 cases compared with 175 in 2010. But not enough of these aberrations and dysfunctions, for Comelec to declare a failure of election, says Chair Brillantes.

Halalan 2013 can be seen as a critical watershed in the sense that it revealed trends and issues that need to be addressed if we have to mature as a democracy. For example, although vote-buying has always been a practice, it seems like it has become much more institutionalized despite the introduction of automation. Too, more than ever before, the electorate is confronted with the issue of what to do about political dynasties. Without realizing it, and because there was no enabling law on the constitutional provision, persons belonging to one family either run together for several national and local posts (Binays and Villafuertes) or replace the other sibling or father after the latter's term is completed. Members of the same clan are voted over and over again and usually stay in power for two or three decades. Statistics show that 85% of provincial governors and 84% of city and town mayors belong to political families.

Another divisive issue is the party list system. The Comelec decision to disallow non-marginalized sectors from participating as party-list groups which was recently vetoed by the Supreme Court will now open up the system to all sectors starting this election. In the implementation of the law, the electorate should be vigilant so as to ensure that the goal of social justice is served and that the "inclusivity" concept is not abused by those with political and economic power.


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