Malilong: Automated cheating

·3 min read

When he lost his bid for his old Cebu Second District seat in Congress in the 2001 elections, the late congressman Sol Abines had a simple explanation to his followers: “Wa nay gusto ang mga tawo nato.” (The people no longer want us.)

If the rejection hurt, he did not show it. There were no what if’s, only a simple acknowledgment that he had been beaten. Note that those were the days when the entire electoral process was done manually, passing through many human touch points and vulnerable to manipulation.

Automation was supposed to insulate our elections from the perils inherent in human intervention and render the results easily acceptable to the unfavored. And yet, instead of producing more Sol Abineses, the resort to technology has only bred more controversy and, along with it, bitter losers.

What else needs to be done so that we can, during our lifetime, witness an election that ends with magnanimous winners and gracious losers being the majority, the rule rather than the exception? What reforms do we have to introduce to make sure that election results are, like Cesar’s wife, beyond reproach?

If it’s any consolation, other more advanced democracies have experienced similar electoral woes. The United States, which taught us democracy, is until now still grappling with the problem of convincing former President Trump and his base that he lost as shown by decisions from various US courts belying his claims of electoral fraud.

We need no reminding that our own arbiters of electoral disputes are not imbued with the same sense of urgency. Look at the record of the Comelec, the courts and the electoral tribunals.

A long drawn-out electoral contest is a two-edged sword. It can weary out the aggrieved to surrender or it can drive him to violence and similar expressions of frustration. Fortunately for us, it has generally been a case of the former instead of the latter but how long can our luck hold?

Just how real is cheating in an automated counting? I’ve been hearing stories of candidates being promised certain victories for a fee amounting to several million pesos. This is most probably a racket. Unfortunately, many candidates fall for the scam.

Some of these paying candidates won, I have been told, but they have no way of knowing whether they won of their own accord or because they paid. Those who paid but lost -- and I am told that there are also many of them -- are left with no recourse since the people that they dealt with have vanished into thin air. They are likely the ones who will scream that their opponent won because they bought the Comelec.

With the number of victimized candidates growing every election, would it be long before we hear that some operators are arrested and jailed or fed to the sharks?

That might not guarantee an immediate end to claims of automated cheating, but it surely would be a good start.

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