It is election time again here in the US of A, and soon in the Philippines.
I like better the Philippine variety of elections because it is more of a joke than anything else.
Consider this quotation from a Commission on Election (Comelec) personnel who was about to count the votes: “We should count the votes properly because every vote is crucial… Ha, ha, ha! I am just kidding.”
I remember reading this quote in an opposition newspaper in the late 1970s (martial-law period) when the Comelec chairman was the late Senator Leonardo Perez who, the opposition claimed, did not know how to count. (Perez was a known ally of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos).
Here’s another instance which seemed to indicate that Perez did not know how to count: Again during the martial-law era, there were people in some rural towns who swore to the Heavens that they voted certain candidates for mayor, who were not members of Marcos’s party, the KBL (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan), but the final Comelec tally showed that the men and women they voted for as mayor got zero vote. How come? Well, Perez did not know how…
The opposition also complained that in the election of members of the assembly, there were cities and towns in Metro Manila in which the total number of votes cast for then First Lady Imelda Marcos was so high it exceeded the number of registered voters. The reason for this was not that Perez did not know his arithmetic; the reason was what the late Senator Soc Rodrigo called “ka hakot-hakot.”
I know this for a fact. In those days I was a Manila Bulletin reporter, and I was quite close to a Cabinet official who took me in his confidence and allowed me to attend sensitive meetings of the KBL. In one such meeting, the KBL leaders devised a scheme to ensure that Imelda was going to top the election of members of the assembly. The scheme called for the leaders to bring to Metro Manila busloads of flying voters from the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, La Union, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija. The rest is history.
Then there was this classic incident that took place in a remote village in Mindanao, where most of the residents were poor farmers and fishermen. This likewise happened during the martial-law period.
On Election Day, an aging farmer and his wife went to the voting precinct to cast their ballots. Because martial law was in effect, the Comelec personnel and teachers manning the election precinct were being secured and assisted by heavily armed, uniformed soldiers.
Upon arrival, the couple was met by a soldier who told them he is going to assist them. The soldier helped the couple in registering for the election and later took from a Comelec personnel two ballots in which the couple was to write the names of the candidates they were voting for.
But instead of giving the ballots to the farmer and his wife and asking them to fill them out with names of the candidates they had chosen, the helpful soldier went inside the voting booth, and he himself filled out the ballots. Afterwards, he asked the couple to put their thumbprints at the bottom of the filled-out ballots.
He was about to drop the ballots in a ballot box when the farmer said, “May we please know who were the candidates whom we voted for.”
Looking at the farmer with sharp, menacing eyes, the soldier said in an angry tone, “Are you crazy? Don’t you know that this is secret balloting? This is secret balloting, and the names of the candidates whom you have elected are secret.”
The couple apologized and hurriedly left.
During the martial-law years, the holding of elections of government officials was seldom and far between. At one time, upon the clamor of the opposition, Marcos relented and ordered the holding of election of local officials. For some reasons, the counting of the votes was delayed for several hours.
When the opposition complained of the delay, a spokesman of Marcos sharply reacted, saying “we already allowed the holding of an election, and now you want the votes to be counted. Ano kayo, sinesuerte?”
Well, when it comes to elections, it is more fun in the Philippines.