Halalan 2013: The People’s Mandate

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

May 19, 2013

Bohol Provincial Government and District Representatives to the House. Governor Edgar Chatto (LP) and Vice-Governor Inday Conching Lim (LP) and the Sangguniang Panglungsod members have received a resounding mandate until 2016. So have 1st District Representative Rene Relampagos (LP) and 3rd District Representative Arthur Yap (NPC) who was unopposed. Erico Aristotle Aumentado (NPC) was chosen Representative of the 2nd District to succeed his late father whom I greatly respected as a leader and cherished as a personal friend. Councilor Baba Yap won as Mayor of Tagbilaran. Mabuhay ang atong mga lider sa Bohol, uban ang atong mga mayores ug uban pa.

As a result, Bohol will enjoy continuity in leadership and development with the promise of more solid achievements. For one, construction of the new Bohol Airport in Panglao is expected to start soon and be completed and opened by 2016. This will boost domestic and international tourism. Agricultural development will be enhanced. And more Boholanos can benefit by employment and reduction of poverty. Hopefully, the construction of the new Bohol Provincial Capitol could be started. We hope the roads in Tagbilaran will be improved. 

How strong are the political parties in Bohol, based on the affiliations of the elected mayors and provincial officials? The Liberal Party is the strongest by far led by 29 mayors and Governor Chatto. United Nationalist Alliance has 8 mayors. Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) has 3 mayors. The Nacionalista Party has two mayors. Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino and PDP/Laban have one mayor each.

How did Boholanos vote in the senatorial elections? The following are the top 12 senatorial candidates voted by Boholanos: 1st. Grace Poe; 2nd. Alan Peter Cayetano; 3rd. Loren Legarda;4th Nancy Binay; 5th Chiz Escudero; 6th Bam Aquino; 7th Edgardo Angara; 8th Aquilino Koko Pimentel; 9th Cynthia Villar; 10th Migz Zubiri; 11th Antonio Trillanes; 12th Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.

In other words, Boholanos voted for 10 from Team PNOY and only 2 from Team UNA. Or Boholanos favored President P-Noy: 10 to 2.

How did the nation vote for the 12 Senate seats? Based on only 72 of the 304 certificates of canvass tabulated by the National Board of Canvassers, on May 16 the Comelec declared the top six senatorial candidates elected as follows: No 1. Grace Poe; No. 2. Loren Legarda. No. 3. Alan Peter Cayetano. No. 4. Chiz Escudero.  No. 5. Nancy Binay. No. 6. Juan Edgardo Angara. On May 17, the Comelec proclaimed three more senatorial candidates elected:  No. 7. Paolo Bam Aquino. No. 8. Aquilino Koko Pimentel. No. 9. Antonio Trillanes. Not yet proclaimed as winners are the next leading candidates: No. 10. Joseph Ejercito Estrada. No. 11. Cynthia Villar; and No. 12. Gregorio Honasan.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes had declared on election day, May 13, that Comelec would proclaim the winning senatorial candidates by May 15. But the automated voting and tabulation were much slower than in the 2010 elections. There were many more hitches in the machines. So Chairman Brillantes decided to proclaim the leading senatorial candidates based on incomplete returns.

The proclamation of the top six candidates as winners, prompted prominent election lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, to announce that the proclamation was invalid, because the Comelec did not state the number of votes the candidates had obtained and how they ranked in the tally. Nancy Binay was right in not attending the challenged Comelec proclamation of the top six senatorial candidates. Peeved by the criticism, Chairman Brillantes yet again offered to resign his post if his proclamation proved to be erroneous.

Among the 12 leading senatorial candidates, nine are from Team PNOY and 3 from Team UNA. If this becomes the final ratio, the new pro-administration majority in the Senate will be able to replace Senate President Enrile with Senator Franklin Drilon, the ranking LP Senator and a former Senate President.

According to their political party affiliation, how did the nation vote for the 234 District Representatives to the House? The numbers are not in, but the speculation is that the Liberal Party would be able to increase its members. If so the President’s political party, led by Speaker Belmonte, will be stronger in pushing the legislation and reforms it wants.

“Cases of vote-buying reported nationwide.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 14, 2013, pages 1 and 19. The news item carried the stories of ten PDI reporters covering various parts of the country. The same day The Philippine Star reported cases of vote-buying and arrests of the perpetrators who were caught in the act and with evidence of their vote-buying. Philippine Star columnist Federico Pascual observed: “The sight and scent of dirty money finally swept the nation over the weekend. Media were rife with reports of vote-buying, from P100 to P3,500 per voter….” (May 14, 2013). Beyond cash, vote-buying took the form of groceries and food packs, mobile phones, and education scholarships.

For the candidates and their families the political and financial stakes are high, and the campaigners and voters expect financial support during and between elections. Continuing poverty, unemployment, and the political culture sustain and aggravate the situation.

Other reports included sporadic violence, killings, and  blackouts; and on election day some 300 glitches in the precinct optical scan machines for automated voting and counting. In its editorial the day after the election (May 14), the Philippine Star opined: “for the most part, however, the conduct of the midterm elections was no worse than in previous ones. xxx As the high turnout…indicates, Filipinos continue to put their faith in elections, This trust in the system, no matter how flawed, should be supported by an unrelenting effort to improve every step of the election process. Comelec officials described yesterday’s vote as a success.” 

But overall, the emerging consensus is that the 2013 elections were generally honest and credible. In its editorial on May 15 the Philippine Daily Inquirer declared: “the Comelec and the thousands of teachers, volunteers, and sundry personnel across the country who worked hard to ensure that the elections came off as fair, honest and credible, deserve appreciation.” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said: “the administration is happy with the performance of the AFP and PNP in securing the polls” and “the conduct of the elections by the Comelec.” (Reported by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News. May 14, 2013.)

If the 2013 local and national elections are regarded as a mid-term referendum on the leadership and administration of President P-Noy, how did he fare in the people’s judgment? President Aquino regards the 9/3 win in favor of Team PNOY senatorial candidates a vote of confidence in his governance as he considers the mid-term elections a “referendum” on his administration, his presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. And added: “it seems clear that our countrymen have spoken overwhelmingly to confirm and expand the mandate for reform and change that they first granted in 2010 to President Aquino.” xxx “The victory of Team PNOY is a renewed mandate for tuwid na daan, and a vote of confidence for good governance, the continuity of reforms, and a brighter future to come.” (Reported by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News. May 14, 2013.)

On the other hand the eminent journalist, Amando Doronila, says: “The nine-three result of the Senate elections proclaims a no change outcome. It locks the country into the iron grip of a status quo—continuity of political sterility in the second half of President Aquino’s administration, which has been hamstrung from delivering economic benefits to the Filipino masses by slogans of good governance (“Analysis: elections with no change,” PDI, May 15, 2013).

The knowledgeable consensus is that the Aquino administration has greatly improved its credit ratings and reputation among foreign businessmen. However, these have not been followed by more direct foreign investments. And the higher GDP has not been inclusive of the many who are still poor and jobless. High GNP relies heavily on OFW remittances earned at a high social cost.

Will the results of the Halalan 2013 make a significant difference to our people’s lives?    

It remains to be seen what the President and his ruling coalition will do in the final half of his six-year mandate. Will he and his allies learn well the lessons of the first half? What legacy does P-Noy want to leave the nation as one who became president largely on the passing away of his revered mother-president, Tita Cory, and martyred father-senator, Ninoy Aquino? Does he have the humility and wisdom to listen, seek counsel, and learn?

Unlike one movie-idol and ousted president who would tell his critics and advisers: “Ako yata ang presidente.” “Mag-presidente muna kayo?”  Too often our leaders mistake their power and prominence for superior knowledge, insight, and wisdom. 

Some interesting election facts and figures. Compared to the United States and other modern, industrialized democracies, the Philippines has a high voting turnout: about 70 percent  in 2013; 75 percent in 2010 and 73 percent in 2007.

The five regions with the biggest number of voters are (in millions): Calabarzon 7.2; Metro Manila 6.0; Central Luzon 5.8; Central Visayas 4.1; Western Visayas 4.0. the five provinces with the biggest number of voters (in millions) are: Cebu 2.5; Cavite 1.8; Pangasinan 1.7; Negros Occ. 1.6; Laguna 1.5. 

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