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Election result must reflect voters’ choice

The world has seen some democratic countries being shaken by the activities of foreign actors trying to influence domestic elections. One study indicated that the country intervening in most foreign elections is the United States with 81 overt and covert known interventions in foreign elections during the period 1946–2000, followed by Russia (including the former Soviet Union) with 36 interventions from 1946 to 2000. Another study found that the US engaged in 64 covert and six overt attempts at regime change during the Cold War.

Dov H. Levin, a political scientist at the University of Hong Kong, claims in his book—Meddling in the Ballot Box: The Causes and Effects of Partisan Electoral Interventions—that the US has messed with more than twice as many elections as Russia/Soviet Union. Levin says whatever the time period, foreign actors rarely just meddle for meddling’s sake. He explains that a country’s leaders have to believe that one side’s victory in a particular foreign election would be untenable for their interests—and they need to know that the opponent might be interested in getting their assistance. “When those conditions exist, hello foreign interference”.

From news reports: Presidential candidate Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos, Jr. said he would dismiss any potential offer of help from the United States in negotiations with China over the South China Sea, if elected president in May. He said in a TV interview that a move to enforce a 2016 international arbitration court ruling that dismissed Beijing’s historical claims to the disputed territories in the South China Sea is no longer feasible because China has rejected the verdict. “The problem is between China and us. If Americans come in, it is bound to fail,” he said. Asked if the Philippines was strong enough to engage in a defensive war with China and how he planned to deal with Beijing, Marcos said going to war with China over the South China Sea would not be an option and should be considered “a ludicrous idea.”

If the elections were held today, Marcos would easily win the presidency. Polls consistently show him far ahead of his closest challenger, Vice President Leni Robredo. A Pulse Asia survey from February 18 to 23 asked 2,400 registered voters which candidate they would vote for as president if the May elections were held on the day they were questioned. The result: 60 percent of the respondents said they will vote for Marcos, while 15 percent said they will vote for Robredo. Marcos has a clear mandate if the survey results were to translate into actual votes.

The number of eligible Filipino voters has exceeded the total number of the voting population in at least seven regions, based on the estimates made by the former head of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). In a public social media post, former NSCB Secretary General Romulo A. Virola said “overregistration” for the May 2022 polls was observed in 7 out of 17 regions nationwide. Virola said the percentage of “overregistration” ranged from at least 1 percent in Central Visayas to at most 11 percent in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. “Obviously, something must be awfully wrong. Either the population projections of the PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority) are on the low side, or the Rappler/Comelec voters’ list is padded,” Virola said (Read, “Ex-NSCB head notes ‘overregistration’ of voters for May 9 polls in 7 regions,” in the BusinessMirror, March 24, 2022).

There is serious political polarization currently spreading around the country. It would do well for the Commission on Elections to be transparent in performing its job. In the eyes of the people, the Comelec must be like Caesar’s wife – it must be above suspicion. We need to have honest, orderly and peaceful elections on May 9. An honest election is one in which the outcome reflects the freely expressed choices of the people.

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