One word grates in the uproar over flawed flash cards for 76,300 precinct count optical scan machines in the coming elections.
That word is:: “trust”. Or to be more precise: the “lack of trust.” A ‘jittery” President Gloria Macapgal Arroyo convened officials after Comelec recalled the defective cards. Various scenarios from postponing the vote by 15 days to election failure.were discussed. “The President put in Comelec her full trust. ”
Replacing the cards is easy, Comelec chairman Jose Melo noted. “The tougher challenge is to “recapture the trust of people and candidates.”
Worse, mistrust would open challenges to automated results, warned the Legal Network for Truthful Elections. This is a country where candidates, even for barangary posts, never concede being trashed.
The word “trust’ is of Scandinavian origin. It means “one in which confidence is placed.”, says Webster’s dictionary. Trust is : “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone.”
It is an essential trait. Without it, governments would lapse into paralysis. Ordinary lives would be distorted “You must trust and believe in people,” the Russian writer Anton Chekov said. “Otherwise, life becomes impossible.”
We are, however, a people “ wounded by betrayal, abuse, broken promises, broken relationships and empty words” by our leaders.
Ferdinand Marcos exploited the people’s initial acquiescence to “a command society”. He installed a brutal corrupt dictatorship. Joseph Estrada perverted hopes of the poor into a license for drunken plunder. Loss of trust erupted into People Power 1 and 2.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo gutted treasury, even institutions, like the Ombusdman and the Supreme Court. That’d ensure protection from prosecution and continued influence after her term ends.
That is true, too, in the local fiefdoms of political dynasties. That sweeps in the Ortegas of La Union, the Dys of Isabela, Singsons of Ilocos Sur, Dimaporos of Lanao del Norte to the Ecleos of Dingat Island.
The Ampatuans of Maguindanao ratcheted this legacy of betrayal by the massacre of 57 civilians – 32 of them journalists and six passers-by. Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and 196 others, most policy and paramilitary volunteers, stand charged.
The iron grip of the clan made that massacre possible, writes the former Notre Dame university president, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI. (No relation to this columnist – JLM).
The Ampatuans controlled the province and parts of ARMM. Their sway bracketed Armed Forces units, natonal police, even the Commission on Elections.
Maguindanao claimed, between 2007 and 2009 a staggering increase of 78 percent in number of registered voters, National Movement for Free Elections points out that That is a “bloat” from 336,774 to 601,057 voters. “That is scientifically impossible”, snorted demographers at the Philippine Population Conference.
Possible or not, “Maguindano delivered the 0-12 Bedol results in electoral exercises”, the Oblate priest writes. Provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol skipped town after the Supreme Court upheld an order for his arrest. “In whispers, residents include Malacañang in the list of ‘controlled’ institutions.”
Actual voters in the province is about 20 percent” of election lists, “Fr Mercado writes. “About 80 percent of registered voters never appear at polling places. Instead, Board of Election Inspector members cast ballots for these “ghosts”.
The key is not to allow BEI’s to cast ballots for spooks in the May 10 poll, he adds. “Is that possible? “Hello Garci” colleagues still hold key Comelec posts. Election results “will tell to all sundry if the Ampatuan’s absolute hold in the province has, finally, ended.”
Warlord corruption, encouraged by Malacanang and other power brokers, has corroded trust in institutions. The Justice Department has not been spared. Secretary Alfredo Agra’s attempted to exonerate the Ampatuans, until blocked by nationwide protests.
The metastasis of distrust is not new. In 2008, the Catholic Bishops Conference pinpointed this problem in a pastoral letter entitled: “Restoring Trust”. Here are excerpts:
At the center of crises is… trust. People mistrust economic institutions. (Their) lack of moral compass produces for people a life of dehumanizing poverty. They mistrust… our political system.
This mistrust is not recent…Elections here are often presumed tainted than honest. Congressional and senate hearings run along party lines. “Politics has not effectively responded to the needs of the marginalized.”
Restoration of trust calls for moral accountability, adherence to constitutional processes and non-violence as well as effective governance.
“We reject calls for juntas or revolutionary councils. Resolving the crisis has to be within the framework of the Constitution. Violent solutions merely produce“new injustices.”
“Political authority is accountable to the people. Those who govern have the obligation to answer to the governed” To restore trust would require those found guilty be punished. “Beyond apology is accountability. Indeed, with forgiveness is justice”
Spearheading reform to restore trust will fall upon the shoulders of the election victors. That are likely to be Benigno Aquino and Manuel “Mar” Roxas, despite the spurt of Mayor Jojo Binay in the latest SWS poll.
It is a task that can not be put off. “For somehow, this is tyranny’s disease: to trust no friend, the Greek playwright Aeschylus said.