Elections are less than a week away and candidates are all in a frenzied rush towards the homestretch. The 90-day campaign (45 for local races) blew by like a 30-minute political ad. After a campaign period filled with controversies (real and imagined), acrimony, and relentless attempts to convince every voter it all boils down to one day — May 9, 2022.
More than 67.5 million eligible Filipino voters will decide on election day. It will be the supreme expression of their sovereign powers to choose who will govern in the next six years (three years in the case of local officials). On that day we will see democracy in action.
I think the majority of voters have already made up their minds especially with regard to the race for the top two posts. The reason for this is that the lines of the presidential race have already been drawn pretty clearly early on. This was unlike other presidential elections where many were still undecided close to the day of the elections.
I remember the 1992 election which was contested by seven strong contenders resulting in the winner getting the lowest plurality in the Philippine electoral history. Let us hope this will not be repeated this year. We need a clear victor so as to remove any doubts about the mandate given by the people to the victor.
I am wishing for a couple of things come election day. I hope the voting process will proceed smoothly. The primary threat to this is of course the possibility of another surge in Covid-19 infections. I do not think it will happen and I hope I will not be proven wrong.
The second threat is violence. Philippine elections are notorious for violence. The Philippine National Police (PNP) late last year identified 546 elections “hot spots” down from 946 in the 2019 elections. And I have not seen a major surge in election-related violence so far. Let us pray that it will not increase as we approach election day itself.
And finally, let us all pray that the elections will be honest, accurate, and credible. The first two are crucial to achieving credibility and are very important in preventing violence post-elections. More often than not violence tend to occur in tight races in which the losing candidates cannot accept defeat. That is the reason why you have been incidence in the past where supporters of the losing candidate will mobilize in order to prevent the proclamation of their candidate’s opponent.
It is imperative that the entire election process — from voting to counting to canvassing and until the proclamation of winners — will be seen as credible. This is the only way to make people, and candidates, accept and trust the results of the elections.
I hope the Commission on Elections (Comelec), from the commissioners to the officials on the ground, will remain focused on their task: ensuring credible democratic elections. I hope that contingency plans are in place in case a Covid-19 surge happens in order to avoid disenfranchising voters.
Finally, I call on candidates to unite behind the vision of peaceful and credible elections. After the last speeches have been delivered, after the last political advertisement has been broadcast, after the last poster has been put up, at the end of the day, this election is not about you or whether you win or not. That is important, of course. But a bigger reason is respecting the will of the people and ensuring that democracy is not undermined. Yes, electoral victory is the immediate objective of candidates but there is a purpose bigger than your ambition.