A CALL FOR PATIENCE

05/07/2010 - Be patient, pray and “engage” in the election despite its “unacceptable” flaws.
This was the appeal of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. to citizens amid fears that the country's first automated elections on Monday may fail or be postponed.

He said people upset by the snafus may be provoked to unruly actions that could be cited as a “national security” threat that would lead to military takeover.

In a press conference, Davide joined university owners, businessmen and Liberal Party representatives in pressing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to push on with the May 10 elections and prepare for a full manual count as backup.

“A postponement would heat up the people who now want change by the ballot as provided by law,” said Davide, “and would provoke them to do some acts which the military may consider threats to national security or the police to consider as threats to the peace and order condition.”

“This would provide the military (basis) to come in and install military rule through a military junta, justifying this junta because of some acts which may be provoked by reason of the postponement.”

Davide, a former Comelec chairman, suggested what could be done in the remaining few days.

To citizens: “Go to the precinct. If there is partial manual count, engage in it. If there is partial automation, engage in it. If there will be eventually be a failure of election, my advice is: be patient,” Davide said.

“Be patient a little because you may provoke the justification for a military junta... We have to have proper reflection and deep prayer. Vigilance, prayer, petition and appeal to the conscience of everyone. ... Do what you can.”

To the Comelec, he said a 100 percent manual count should be allowed, a contingency that would need extra last-minute effort.

“They should not sleep anymore until Monday. Take Lipovitan,” he advised.

Davide said Comelec could rush the printing of tally sheets within two days for the remaining 70 percent of precincts not covered in the poll body’s contingency plan. The print job could be spread in various commercial presses through negotiated contracts.

Replacing over 70,000 new flash cards for the computers without testing them is “very risky” and won’t assure no more glitches can happen, he said.

Davide said the Comelec, which critics deplored as “incompetent” after the belated discovery of faulty memory chips in the vote-count machines, said was guilty of “failure to exercise extraordinary diligence in the performance of their constitutional duties.”

He said the reason given for any postponement, including the flawed memory chips, “is totally unacceptable”.

Ben Dapat of the Cebu Business Club, said “this is crunch time for Comelec. They should deliver.”

Augusto Go of the Unviersity of Cebu said “I think people will be very mad” if the elections are postponed. Dr. Potenciano Larrazabal Jr. of the Cebu Doctors niversity said his nephew, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, assured him that “there’s no other choice but automation” and that Monday elections will go on.

Andrew Aznar of Southwestern University director, said a “failure of election will destroy this country.”

Democrito Barcenas of the Noynoy-Mar movement in Cebu said that postponing the election would violate the Constitution which provides the date of the presidential election on the second Monday of May.

Davide listed seven reasons why a postponement of elections was not an option.

First, even a 15-day postponment as suggested by by Romeo Macalintal, lawyer of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, would have “dire consequences”.

Second, it would reinforce doubts that Arroyo wanted to stay in power.

“A postponement is a virtual surrender to the alleged evil plan to postpone the election or cause failure of election for the president to hold on to power beyond her term,” he said.

Third, it would “greatly prejudice” the campaign of LP candidates Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas by giving a longer period for the administration to try recover ground for its candidate Gibo Teodoro. He cited the suspicious timing of Macalintal’s suggestion for a 15-day delay and survey results showing the LP’s lead.

Fourth was the danger of public outrage being used as a basis to call in the military.

Postponement would also prejudice the opposition, whose campaign funds would be depleted, as well as “put the Philippines in a bad light before the international community”, he said.

The Comelec would be be “dishonored” and suspicion would spread that “it is indeed party to a grand plan to postpone the election for the benefit of a few.” (Cebu Daily News)

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