Don't Blink: How To Win An Election You Lost and Get Away With It


In the 2007 mid-term elections in the Philippines, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Juan Miguel “Migs” Zubiri were closely vying for the last slot for the 12 winners for the Senatorial race. Zubiri, administration congressman and author of the Biofuels Act, was declared the winner. 

Pimentel, opposition lawyer and bar topnotcher, filed an electoral protest, citing tampered ballots, serious discrepancies between votes and voters and other poll anomalies. Obviously, these guys have class so they’re not your average run-of-the-mill petulant brats.

Pimentel has presented a compelling case but his protest is still ongoing. It’s been over two years, enough time for a young man to reach maturity, establish a career, get married and have babies, not necessarily all and not necessarily in that order.

Everybody loves a winner and everybody’s a winner during elections – a candidate either won or was cheated. That’s supposed to be a joke but it’s not funny, not even amusing. It’s a sad decades-old commentary on Philippine politics and culture. We Filipinos, by implication, are:
  • Bad losers; or
  • Cheaters; or
  • Both

It could be worse. When you file a poll suit, you have to pay everything – all expenses for the opening and re-counting all the millions of ballots in those rusted-metal boxes, not to mention legal fees amounting to millions. Meaning:
  • You should win; or
  • You should be rich; or
  • Both

It’s time-consuming too. In all probably, actually it’s guaranteed, the case will not be resolved until after the term of the 12th Senator ends in 2010. If Pimentel runs in the 2010 elections, his case will be dismissed.

Legal Argument

That’s how bad it is. See, it happened in 1992. Miriam Defensor Santiago ran for President; a firebrand, real popular among students. Fidel V. Ramos was declared President. (He was a good executive and administrator, in fairness.) Santiago filed a case, but it was dismissed when she ran for Senator in 1995.

She won, but even if she didn’t, the legal argument says that her act of declaring her candidacy for Senator is tantamount to withdrawing her quest for the Presidency. That doesn’t seem fair, but it’s logical, sort of. It doesn’t make much sense, kinda like stopping to look for your lost dog because you bought a cat.

Shamed This Nation

It happened again. Happens all that time, as a matter of fact, onli in da Pilipins. In the 2004 elections, Senator Loren Legarda ran for Vice President, the running mate of the late Fernando Poe Jr. (See also “The League of Extraordinary Filipinos”) That was when the “Hello Garci!” scandal tarnished the legitimacy of the present dispensation and shamed this nation in the eyes of the world.

Gloria Arroyo, who became President in 2001 (See also “The Return of Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada – A Legal Precedent or A Constitutional Crisis?”) ran for re-election after breaking her public vow not to, and she was declared the winner.

“Noted” was one of the buzzwords of 2004, and we should note that the Chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during that time was Benjamin Abalos, who would later be one of the accused masterminds of the NBN-ZTE bribery scandal along with Arroyo’s husband Mike (See also “Lozada Arrest Triggers Mass Condemnation”) but that’s another story.

Arroyo was wiretapped talking to Virgilio Garcillano, a Comelec commissioner. An incumbent President running for re-election calls a high-ranking election official during the canvassing of the elections returns from the polling precints. In this world of unreasonable circumstances and justified suspicions, few things can be more unethical than that.

Just like the Reader’s Digest section – no, not “Laughter Is The Best Medicine” – “That’s Outrageous!” Have we come to this?

We all heard how Garci assured her that her votes will outnumber that of FPJ by at least a million. Borrowing the words of the great hero Benigno Aquino Jr. (See also “Imaginary Interview with Ninoy Aquino”) as he fired a point-by-point rebuttal of dictatorship and martial law – “I can’t imagine the gall of these people!”

Arroyo later issued a public apology. She said she has done nothing illegal or improper. She did not take advantage of her opponents and abused her powers. Therefore, she has nothing to apologize about. She also clarified that it was her voice on the recording but she was not the one talking.


Deserves The Trust

Legarda’s presentation of evidence was organized, consistent, specific, credible and convincing. But her protest was declared null when she ran for Senator in 2007 – the first candidate to win the No. 1 spot in the Senatorial race; the first was in 1998.

Legarda is clearly of Presidential caliber. She recently declared her candidacy for Vice President for the 2010 elections but she seems to be running single, at least for now. I’d definitely vote for her. Depend on it.

Scalding To Death

The political reality today in the Philippines in the context of the electorate can be symbolized by the proverbial and apparently scientifically-proven frog in hot water. When you drop a – euw! – frog in a pot of boiling water, he will instinctively jump out, kokak-ing curses on you. But if you place him in a pot of lukewarm water and boil it, he will even enjoy the increasing heat not realizing he is scalding to death.
Then he dies. 

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