Muslim rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front has joined President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's call for the postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is also going to be the election that would test the automated election system mandated by law. Lira Dalangin-Fernandez also reported on MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu's disclosure about his meeting with the President in Shariff Kabunsuan not to discuss the pending peace agreement but to oversee the implementation of a government project involving the clearing and dredging of the heavily silted Rio Grande de Mindanao in the province. Arroyo's recommendation came after lawmakers have indicated plans to file separate bills to push for the postponement of the ARMM polls. Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo, however, wanted the ARMM polls to push through, but also noted that "it's up to Congress."
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HISTORY repeats itself like a broken record. Before, it was conjugal dictatorship and cronies. Then, it was Kamag-anak, Inc. Now, we call it political dynasty. Really, there's nothing new under the sun. The Estradas had set a bad precedent when mother and son won simultaneous seats in the Senate. In the recent election, we saw senatoriables with kin already sitting in the Senate. That's one the reasons why I did not vote for Alan Cayetano, Vic Magsaysay and Koko Pimentel (See my previous blog entry: http://inquirerbloggers.net/eleksyon2007/2007/05/16/why-i-did-not-vote-for-pichay-cayetano-et-al/). In our country, we see fathers sitting as mayors with their children sitting as congressmen. In one city, four brothers ran for mayor, congressmen for both of its districts, and party-list representative. When the local official finishes his third term, he makes his wife run for the position. Then we also discover that some of the nominees of the party-lists are children of congressmen. Why do we tolerate this? Before the election I went to Bicol. I asked a pedicab driver why he would vote for Dato Arroyo. He answered, "Siyempre anak siya ng pangulo. Eh di mas malakas sa taas." (Of course, he is the son of the president. So he must be well-connected up there.) What if Dato loses this election? Does that mean the President will neglect that district in Bicol? That is why political dynasty is so unfair. Now, these politicians claim that there's no law against it. Granted, it may not be illegal. But it is immoral. Democracy is about equality. Where is equality in political dynasty? Is there equality when power is concentrated on just a few influential families? I heard Alan Cayetano say that kings pass on power to their sons. Mr. Cayetano, we are not under a monarchy. Well, at least in a monarchy, the king dies first before the prince takes over. Why not wait for your sister to step down before you run for senator? How can siblings (or father and son as in the case of the Pimentels) be a fair representative of the entire country? Where's equality in that? They claim that they are qualified. Fine. "Sila lang ba ang mga anak ng Diyos?" (Are they the only children of God?) Are they the only ones qualified? Plus, they are not just banking on their qualifications. They are taking advantage of name recall. That's undue advantage. Did they focus solely on their qualifications in their campaign? Really now? Did the voters vote for them solely because they are qualified? Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. claimed that political dynasty is not prohibited by the ten commandments. Well, Mr. Senator, it is. God said, "Thou shalt not steal." Isn't political dynasty stealing the opportunity to serve from others? At least, Senator Panfilo Lacson had the moral courage not to allow one of his sons to run for a local elective position. He told his son not to run while he is a senator. It seems to me that it's all about power. I believe they just could not let go of power, that they just want to perpetuate themselves in power, that they lust for power so much that they want more of it. That's why any anti-dynasty bill is doomed to failure even before it is put on paper.
DESPITE trying to put our best foot forward, we have come up short again as a nation in proving that democracy is strong in our nation. Even with the relatively "calm" and "peaceful" election this time around, this did not deter the usual anomalies in the election process from taking place. Vote buying, using children during election day, and voter disenfranchisement were just some of the usual activities that were observed. As reported in PCIJ,
ASIAN foreign observers expressed deep regret over the failure of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct peaceful, honest and orderly elections last May 14 in the six provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).And the observation did not end in ARMM, as I reported on Tingog.com; other reports included: Voters disenfranchised in Tondo, soldiers harassing foreign observers at a Cebu checkpoint, observers being caught in midst of soldiers and crowd in Guimba, blatant cheating and chaos in Lanao Del Sur polls, as well as irregularities in Quezon... Not that any election is perfect, but it seems the international media picked up on Arroyo's statement the other day, and concluded that the election was fairly peaceful. It's good to note, however, that some foreign observers do have confidence that our election process will improve, and one observer also emphasized a move toward computerized elections.
THAT'S what former Senate president Jovito Salonga fears. Here's an excerpt from the Philippine Daily Inquirer story:
MANILA, Philippines--President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to call out the military to help police disband private armies, man 24-hour checkpoints and stop political killings has prompted ex-Senate President Jovito Salonga to warn that the May 14 elections could turn out to be as "violent and fraudulent" as the Marcos-era polls.
In an open letter sent Tuesday to the President through Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Salonga called on Ms Arroyo to ensure the peace and the credibility of the midterm elections so as not to worsen current problems, including the continuing killings. Salonga said Ms Arroyo's order for more checkpoints nationwide was "what [the dictator Ferdinand] Marcos also ordered in the 1969 elections, described by Newsweek (Nov. 24, 1969) and Time (Feb. 16, 1970) as the dirtiest, most violent and most corrupt in modern Filipino history."