202 persons killed in ‘peaceful, clean elections’

Opinion & Analysis May 16, 2004 at 11:32 am

LET’S move the second part of our “Death by Medicine” column to the next issue. The national elections in the Philippines is too important a topic to ignore at this time.

To simplify this business of column writing this issue, I want to just quote two Filipino columnists from the Philippines Daily Inquirer whose many opinion pieces I have read and agreed with for many years.

Conrad de Quiros wrote on the day of the elections on May 10 while Neal H. Cruz wrote the quoted portion of his column days after the elections.
Here are the quotes:

Conrado de Quiros
There’s the rub

Do not go out and vote

If you think the elections are over, as GMA’s and FPJ’s supporters have been telling you, then don’t bother to vote. Stay home and watch the Cartoon Network. I’ve always wondered about the logic that says “Vote for the person who is sure to win.” If someone is sure to win, why vote? The logical conclusion is not to vote, not vote for the “sure win.” Your vote has no meaning, it won’t count anyway. If the fate of the elections is already sealed, if the fate of the elections does not depend on the piece of paper that you seal and deposit into the ballot box, why do anything? Better stay home and not add to the traffic leading to the elementary schools manned by public school teachers whose salaries can’t be raised because the government has no money. All of it has gone to making GMA posters.

Do not go out and vote if you think you have no choice but to vote between the lesser of two evils.
If you think this country has become so impoverished you have no choice but to vote — as Joker Arroyo puts it — between a corrupt and a stupid candidate, better just stay home, look at the Atlas or miniature globe and try to find the best place to relocate to. I’m still startled by Joker’s preference for the corrupt over the stupid on the ground that we have a constitutional remedy for the first (you can impeach a president for corruption) but not the second (you can’t impeach a president for stupidity). Well, if you have a stupid president, maybe you won’t need a constitutional remedy. Maybe he’ll be too stupid to be corrupt.

*****

Neal H. Cruz
As I see it

And they call the polls ‘peaceful’?

“THE ELECTIONS were generally peaceful,” said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“The elections were peaceful,” said Philippine National Police Director General Hermogenes Ebdane.
“The polls were peaceful,” said Election Commissioner Resurreccion Borra.

How can they lie so barefacedly and still face their countrymen?

A total of 202 persons were killed in election-related violence and they call that “peaceful”? That’s more than the number of American GIs killed since the war in Iraq began. That’s the highest number of election fatalities in the Philippines in history, higher even than the death toll in the violence-wracked election of 1986, the aftermath of which saw the Marcos family and cronies chased by angry citizens out of the country. (Comparative figures from other elections: 93 dead in 1986; 56 in 1992; 83 in 1995; 87 in 1998; 111 in 2001)

But these top officials of our government said the elections were peaceful and, to echo Marc Anthony, “surely they are honorable men.” Could it be that what they meant was that the 202 victims are now “resting in peace”?

No wonder the international observers sent here to watch our elections were “shocked” by the violence. “Even as we [applaud] the high turnout of voters, we are appalled at the incidence of violence and fraud,” said Margot Hoyte of Australia. “These contravene certain claims that the elections were generally peaceful and without violence.”

“Another thing that bothered me a lot was the fact that there was so much violence going on during the time of elections,” said Laura Brune of Germany, “and people seem to accept the fact that people get killed and harassed.”

“I have a tough time understanding that mind-set where a government position as small as mayor or vice mayor or even ‘barangay’ [village] councilor is worth the lives of other people,” said American Hana Johnson.

Another American, Rebecca Lawson, chimed in: “Genuine democracy does not allow the physical elimination of the opposition, the killing of campaigners and candidates.”

But Ms Macapagal-Arroyo, Ebdane and Borra said the elections were “peaceful,” even if our ears, eyes and common sense say they were not. So what has happened to our top leaders? Have they become blind and deaf suddenly? Are they living in a different world? No, they’re living in the same real world that we are. It’s just that they are no longer “honorable.”

“Peaceful.” Tell that to the wives and children and other family members of those killed. Tell that to the rest of the Filipinos who still have their common sense. Tell that to your consciences.

Understandably, these three government officials blissfully unaware of what is going on before them are the three most responsible for the peaceful conduct of the elections. Borra of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is responsible for the conduct of the elections. Ebdane is chief of the national police whose principal duty is to keep the polls peaceful. (What happened to the gun ban? How come so many goons were able to carry the guns with which they killed their victims?) And Ms Macapagal-Arroyo is the big cheese who has the power and authority to use all government agencies to assure peaceful elections. But she used all those government power, authority — and resources — to assure her reelection, not peaceful elections. To paraphrase Shakespeare again, “Ambition, thy name is woman.” End of quotes.

*****

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