Philippines’ pre- and post-election jitters

Even with encouraging developments about the possibility of change for the better, the writer says they still see ominous signs of pre- and post-voting fraudulent acts.

Rufa Cagoco-Guiam

Rufa Cagoco-Guiam

Philippne Daily Inquirer


May 10, 2022

MANILA – This is, perhaps, the most worrisome election season I have participated in as a voter. Even with new encouraging developments about the possibility of change for the better, I still see ominous signs of pre- and post-voting fraudulent acts, enabled by nefarious elements who are out to ensure that the least desirable candidate for president wins.

Just a few days before Election Day, friends and relatives in different localities in Maguindanao have been updating us of the situation in the barangays where they reside.

The news that our family friends and relatives shared with us are not of the pleasant kind. One friend narrated about his group’s discovery of some individuals sleeping at the precinct as early as last Saturday, May 7. This was in a polling precinct in a hard-to-reach area in Datu Odin Sinsuat municipality. As my friend narrated, two people were caught in flagrante delicto shading some ballots, according to the order of their patron, the right-hand person of a local politician. But the two suspects ran away immediately after they were caught red-handed.

It seemed that this first bad news we heard was not the only one of its kind. And this one was even worse. That Saturday evening, there was heightened tension near the Commission on Elections regional office located within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) compound in Cotabato City. Allegedly, some members of the city police force who were detailed to secure the vote-counting machines (VCMs) were prevented from getting out of the compound by high-ranking BARMM officials. There was a standoff of sorts, with the Cotabato City-based police officers accusing BARMM officials of withholding the VCMs. In a subsequent radio interview, lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM interior and local government minister, explained that the timing of the transport of the machines in the evening is quite dubious, as, he said, “so many untoward things can happen at night time.” A slight commotion happened, and videos of the members of the security forces, who were injured in the melee that ensued after the heated exchange, have been posted on social media accounts of those who were obviously supporting the candidacy of the incumbent mayor. The incumbent mayor staunchly opposed the inclusion of Cotabato City in the new autonomous region after the plebiscite in January 2019.

Yesterday, as we were preparing to go out and vote, another friend informed us that several precincts in elementary schools in at least three barangays in Cotabato City were ordered to close temporarily as several untoward incidents have already happened just a few hours after polling places opened. Scared of the possibility of a more serious incident happening, some voters have decided to go home and not vote. They fear they will be caught in the crossfire, if and when the heated verbal exchanges among the watchers of one party and those of another might become violent later in the day. Coincidentally, these polling places were also among the most problematic during the conduct of the plebiscite in January 2019.

But an update from another relative jarred me: he heard that the disqualification case of the candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as president will be decided on with finality today, Tuesday. Why only now? Why is the disqualification case only decided finally after the elections? What kind of scenarios are the opportunists and greedy politicians creating post-elections?

Already, our neighboring Asian countries are looking at us as probably among the most naïve and ridiculously gullible citizens in the whole world. They disdain us for our short memory and easy-going attitude toward people like Imelda Marcos, who, according to her son, Marcos Jr., is the “best politician in the world.” (This and other quotes from clips of the movie, “The Kingmaker.” Imelda Marcos has a string of plunder cases that have been decided with finality, yet she has not spent a single day in a prison cell.)

God forbid, we hope this will not become a part of our political reality after yesterday’s polls.

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