One Grating Word

by Juan L. Mercado

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.

(Email: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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