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Politics is like mahjong

I was privileged to have served the late Governor Niel Tupas, Sr. as Provincial Administrator during his nine years at the Capitol. Every day was a learning session for me about politics. Talking with the man was like getting a one-on-one tutoring on the arts of politics, leadership and governance. Those nine years, I believe, make up the most exciting and memorable phase of my 59 years.Niel-Tupas

And there was one lesson that really sank into my consciousness about politics. It’s that politics should be devoid of hatred and bitterness. Politics is a vehicle for public service, and never as a means to pursue power for its own sake, and especially not to amass wealth. Politics is about being with the people, looking after their welfare, and using one’s power and influence to achieve that end.

Gov. Niel put it this way: “Politics is like mahjong. After an election, everything goes back to square one. The cards are shuffled (“ginabalasa”) and everybody gets a fresh start.” For him, acrimony has no place in his heart, which is perhaps the reason why Gov. Niel was so well-loved by his constituents and respected even by his foes. In the nine years I worked for him, I never heard him raise his voice in anger. It’s not that he never got angry; when he got mad, he would just frown and mutter a few words expressing displeasure. But then, he was always able to recover and get back in a good mood after a minute.

I will never forget what former 1st District Congressman, and now Guimbal municipal mayor Oscar Garin Sr. said two months after their 2004 gubernatorial battle. The two met at the Jaro Cathedral for the oath-taking of newly elected local officials. Then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the guest of honor. I was with Gov. Niel aboard his Nissan Patrol vehicle. Mayor Garin saw him and approached with a wide smile, extending his hand in reconciliation and friendship. Garin quipped: “Pati na gid man ako nga pirdi ang kwarta sa pikpik sa abaga (Now I believe that money can be beaten by just a pat on the shoulder).”

The elections had started as a close race between Gov. Niel and Mayor Oca. The latter had the edge in terms of money and logistics. But when the results came out, Gov. Niel had won by over 180,000 votes against Garin, who had never before experienced defeat in an election. Garin had the money; Gov. Niel had the love of the people.

With the national and local elections just a year away, I think it would be good for potential adversaries to ponder upon the wisdom of Gov. Niel in the field of politics. He never spoke ill of anybody. He was the type who would turn the other cheek if insults are hurled his way and get hit. He was always kind and helpful, never spiteful and arrogant.

Indeed, if politicians are looking for a role model, the late Gov. Niel would be the perfect leader to copy. He was the epitome of a genuine public servant and leader. He was Mr. Public Service.

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Leni must resign, now

The on-going manual recount for the Vice Presidential race in the first pilot province of Camarines Sur has established a trend: A steady and consistent decline in the number of votes credited to Leni Robredo in her home province.

leni robredo credit inquirer nino jesus orbeta

Photo credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer

As reported yesterday by Atty. Glenn Chong on his Facebook wall, the teams of revisors who had opened ballot boxes from just 500 clustered precincts have already nullified an estimated 21,000 votes counted in her favor.

Most probably, these involved inadequately shaded ovals beside her name for failure to meet the 50% shading threshold as required by a Comelec resolution promulgated in March 2010 for purposes of manual recount.

The Supreme Court has ruled that 25% shading which apparently is what was found in thousands of ballots does not count for a valid vote. Robredo’s lawyers have filed a motion for reconsideration.

Slowly, but surely, her lead of 263,475 votes over former Senator Bongbong Marcos is being whittled — by 21,000 after only 500 of 2100 clustered precincts in Camarines Sur — and the pattern, and trend, will only speed up in the weeks ahead.

The lead of 263,475 was a rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick pulled off by the Comelec then headed by disgraced Chairman Andy Bautista. It was a hairline margin by any standards, and is now getting thinner and thinner.

If Robredo’s integrity is still intact, as she insists it does, she should now resign. Every week that goes by, and as more evidence of fraud are uncovered, the image of Robredo is growing more rotten. She is desecrating the memory of her husband by allowing herself to be part of this charade put up by the Liberal Party.

Leni loses 21K votes after just 3 weeks

Leni votes going down

Photo credit: ATTY. GLENN CHONG FACEBOOK WALL

 

The slide is gaining momentum.

After just three weeks, and 500 clustered precincts, Vice President Leni Robredo has lost an estimated 21,000 votes in the on-going manual recount for the Vice Presidential race at the Supreme Court which is sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

This was reported today, May 2, 2018, by Atty. Glenn Chong, citing information from unnamed revisors, in his Facebook wall.

At the end of three weeks, the lead of Robredo over former Senator Bongbong Marcos has gone down to 242,000 votes. Robredo was proclaimed the victor in the Vice Presidential race for the May 9, 2016 elections with a lead of 263,473 votes.

There are still 1,300 clustered precinct ballot boxes to be opened and scrutinized for Camarines Sur and another 4,000 clustered precincts from Negros Oriental and Iloilo provinces which Marcos had identified as pilot provinces where massive electoral fraud had allegedly taken place.

Atty. Chong said that at the rate the votes of Robredo are being reduced, her lead could go down to 20,000 votes once all the clustered precincts from the three pilot provinces have been revised.

If it does go down to 20,000 votes, then Marcos will have proven his point that rampant cheating had taken place and thereby pave the way for more provinces being scrutinized for more electoral fraud.

This early, the fraud in Robredo’s victory is already very clear to most Filipinos who are closely monitoring the on-going manual recount. There are already calls for her to resign in the same manner as Senator Migz Zubiri when a recount into the protest of now Senate President Koko Pimentel became clear that the latter was the winner.

This time, it’s not just water, but chemicals

The evidence of massive cheating in Camarines Sur is growing, and all indications point to an organized effort to stall the manual recount being undertaken by the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, and prevent the unseating of Leni Robredo as Vice President in the near-term.

This surfaced last week when revisors discovered more wet ballots from the towns of Canaman ang Garchitorena in Robredo’s home province. This time, however, the ballots were not soaked in water; these were found to be powdery and smelly, and nothing could be read anymore.

The Philippine Star published this report in its April 30, 2018 edition. Here’s the full report. “PET finds ballots soaked in chemicals, jumbled voters’ receipts.”

ballot box design

Showdown

Last week, radio reporter Febe “Bords” Morales of Aksyon Radyo 720 posted on his Facebook wall a photograph of Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor, Sr. chatting with former 4th District Board Member Mitch Monfort-Bautista with her husband at the Capitol. It was made to look like Aksyon Bords stole a picture through a small opening of the door. But it wasn’t really a scoop; it was a deliberate media leak hatched at the Capitol to show a possible alliance between the Defensor family and Mitch Monfort, daughter of the late Cong. Dr. Narciso Monfort, in the next elections. Far from being kept a secret, the meeting was intended to be leaked to send a message to Dr. Ferj Biron, M.D., the incumbent congressman of the 4th district who is poised to run for Governor against Rep. Arthur “Toto” Defensor, Jr. in the May 2019 elections.

mitch monfort with defensor

Photo credit: Febe “Bords” Morales of Aksyon Radyo Iloilo

From what we are seeing, there is no more turning back for Defensor and Biron. Biron is reportedly fielding one of his sons to replace him as congressman, and the meeting between Gov. Defensor and Mitch Bautista is an indication she will run again and challenge the son. She ran and lost to Biron in the May 9, 2016 elections. Defensor is now sending a message to Biron that the latter’s turf will face a tough challenge. And we can expect Defensor to put up candidates for Congressman and municipal mayors in other districts.

Early on, Biron has started courting the support of the congressmen and municipal mayors in the province. A year ago, Defensor Sr. and his son, along with Representatives Arcadio Gorriceta, Biron and Raul “Boboy” Tupas agreed to field a consensus candidate to represent their alliance. Biron was able to gather the commitment of support of most of the municipal mayors in the province. He was quick to claim the title as consensus candidate. But Defensor Sr. backtracked on his commitment for a consensus candidate and announced the candidacy of his son.

It’s still a good one year before the elections are held for Governor, but the protagonists can now be narrowed down to just the two: Biron and Toto Defensor. Cong. Oscar Richard Garin Jr. of the 1st District had initially shown interest in becoming the third force in the equation. The controversy over the Dengvaxia vaccine, however, in which his wife Janette played a key role (she was listed as among the former public officials to be charged criminally by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee) doused cold water on his plans. He has since kept quiet on the gubernatorial race.

1/4 shading for Leni is cheating, period.

How difficult is it to shade a small oval to indicate a voter’s choice among candidates for a political position? Well, with the use of a marking pen, it doesn’t take one second to fully shade the blank space inside the oval. It would be more difficult keeping the shading from spilling out of the oval itself. Hence, it is hard to imagine how a voter, even the old who might have difficulty holding the marking pen, could possibly shade only 1/4 of the oval.

ballot shading

That’s especially when we consider that the candidate is a local bet aspiring to be Vice President of the Republic. If the voters, thousands of them in Camarines Sur in this case, really rooted for Leni Robredo, they would have taken extra care in shading the oval just to make sure their votes are properly credited to her.

It must also be recalled that for months before the elections, the Comelec and media organizations, especially TV, aired voter education activities, and much airtime was spent showing voters how to properly shade the oval. Nothing was left to chance, and shading the oval just 1/4 of the space simply cannot be justified.

This is the reason the efforts of Leni to get the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, to accept her argument that 25% shading of the oval is sanctioned by Comelec. With the small size of the oval, 1/4 is more like a dot using the marking pen. It is not the kind of shading a voter would make to express his or her vote. It is more consistent with haste and rush to mark hundreds, if not thousands of ballots, by one individual.

What this indicates is fraud, especially because it involves thousands of ballots found with only 25% shading. It unmasks the gigantic cheating to add votes for Leni and enable her to catch up with her rival, Senator Bongbong Marcos, who had led by 1.9 million votes going into the third day of the national canvass in May 2016. As experience has shown time and again, a trend is established early in the first six hours of an electronic canvass, and never is reversed in the way Robredo squeaked past Marcos.

Leni won by “systematic cheating”

It is now a downhill ride for Leni Robredo towards oblivion. The “systematic cheating” that propelled her to a hairline victory over former Senator Bongbong Marcos in the May 9, 2016 elections is now being uncovered in the ongoing manual recount before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). What she has described as “systematic decreasing” of her votes in her motion asking the PET to apply the 25% threshold is merely reversing the outcome of the cheating. She is now becoming the victim of her own — and the Liberal Party’s — cheating machinery.

leni robredo credit inquirer nino jesus orbeta

Photo credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Yesterday (April 20, 2018), a debate broke out on my Facebook wall over a report that Leni has already lost as much as 5.000 votes in the first two weeks of the manual recount. Two rabid supporters of Robredo joined the thread and claimed this report about the 5,000 votes was “fake news”. Now that is amusing, because at least two national newspapers quoted insiders at the PET as the source of this information. And Leni herself used the term “systematic decrease” to describe what is happening.

The PET denied her motion. She has appealed. By the way she sounds now, it’s as if her survival depends on persuading the PET to allow the 25% shading to be counted as valid.

Of course, the issue about shading isn’t the only factor that will lead to Leni’s defeat. Already, evidence on the large-scale cheating have surfaced: ballots being soaked in water, tampered ballot boxes, etc. This is just for Camarines Sur. Marcos has also asked the PET to do a manual recount for Iloilo and Negros Oriental. With her narrow margin of 263,000 votes — a really thin hairline difference — Leni could find herself in the loser’s box once the PET is done with these three provinces.

There is a lesson here: cheating does not work. As one friend remarked on Facebook: “Bad karma is real”. Leni is slowly being tortured by karma.