Much to be done to ensure fair, honest polls

On fire: Protesters burning effigies of Marcos Jr and Duterte during a rally at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City. — AFP

AFTER a landslide win in what Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zuibiri has described as a “historical” election, Ferdinand Marcos Jr was proclaimed the country’s 17th president last Wednesday, alongside his running mate, vice-president Sara Duterte.

With an overwhelming 31.6 million votes for Marcos Jr and 32.2 million votes for Duterte, it was “the first time the Philippines has elected a majority president and vice-president’’ under the 1987 Constitution, Zubiri said.

He noted that the May 9 elections had the highest voter turnout in Philippine history, with 55.5 million or 82.4% of total registered voters showing up to cast their votes.

The canvassing of votes by both chambers was also the quickest so far, with the results of the count finalised after only two days, said Zubiri, who thanked the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem, the closest rivals to Marcos Jr and Duterte, for no longer contesting the results.

But while the majority vote and the quick uncontested count indicated Marcos Jr’s strong mandate as the country’s next chief executive, not all credit for that should go to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which, this late, still has to hammer out the kinks that continue to cast doubts on the results of the elections.

The proclamation may have rendered the Comelec’s action on pending issues moot, but it bears reminding the poll body of the unfinished business that it must still address, if only to bring closure and settle questions that might otherwise bedevil future electoral exercises.

Among these unresolved matters is the malfunction of thousands of vote-counting machines (VCM) that disenfranchised thousands of voters and forced them to leave after waiting for hours for the VCMs to finally accept their ballots. The Comelec, which acknowledged that 1,800 incidents of VCM malfunctions were reported, said “the issues have already been resolved”.

That may be so, but how is the poll body dealing with Smartmatic’s accountability over the defective VCMs? And how will it clear the doubt arising from voters’ complaints that, after waiting for hours, they were forced to leave their ballots to poll watchers who, they were assured, would batch feed these to the VCMs once the machines start functioning again? With no receipt with which voters can double-check their votes, speculation on vote-tampering will continue to linger.

With the Barangay elections scheduled this December and the next mid-term elections three years away, it is never too early for the Comelec to take the necessary steps to fulfil its constitutional mandate to ensure fair and honest elections.

There’s much to be done if elections are to truly reflect the people’s will. — The Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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