MANILA, December 5, 2003  (STAR) A law each day (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) By Jose C. Sison - Six months before the elections, opposition presidential candidates and their leaders already anticipate they will lose. And they will lose not because they fail to garner the highest number of votes but because they are cheated. Even before the start of the campaign, they brazenly threaten to stage tumultuous demonstrations in the streets a la "people power" to prevent the "cheater" from claiming victory. What for is halalan 2004? To prove that their predictions are correct?

If all these candidates say that the only way they would lose is through cheating, that means all of them expect to reside in Malacañang. Since only one position for presidency is up for grabs, our country is inextricably headed for a tumultuous and irreparably damaging upheaval after the elections if none of them realizes their ambitions. And even if any one of these opposition candidates manages to win the presidency contrary to his own prediction of cheating, the other losers will still go to the streets in protest because of their obdurate conviction that they deserve to win but for the massive cheating. The danger to the stability and even the very existence of our democratic republic is thus so clear and present if the coming 2004 elections will be held amidst these real threats from these dyed-in-the-wool skeptics and political defeatists.

With these threats of street riots in the air, the periodic surveys conducted by pollsters become double-edged swords. Instead of being merely used by candidates to gauge their strength or chances of winning, they may be used as proof of cheating in case the survey results differ with the actual outcome of the election, completely disregarding the possibility that the figures in the survey may not be translated into actual votes come election day. Pollsters must therefore put a caveat that their surveys are not final and conclusive, otherwise they may be used by losing candidates who top the poll ratings to incite the people to go to the streets and stage the threatened people power.

Charges of fraud, vote-buying and terrorism have been a regular fare in our elections. The general presumption is that there will be cheating in any or all phases of the electoral exercise. The element of trust in a free, honest and orderly election has totally disappeared. In fact most provisions in our election laws reflect a lack of confidence in the aspirants’ sincerity and in the electoral body’s ability to ensure a credible and honest elections. Hence these laws contain intricate procedures in the casting and counting of votes and provide a wide range of remedies to protesting candidates who all believe they are cheated. The dockets of the Comelec and the Electoral Tribunals are indeed clogged with such protests. But never in the previous elections, heated and passionate as they were, have there been such destabilization threats from candidates who already foresee their defeat at the time they are just announcing their candidacy. At this stage these candidates and their leaders are already sending a clear signal that they will discard the legal processes and take the law into their own hands. Noel (no election) is looming large in the horizon because of these threats. And these candidates have only themselves to blame.

Freedom of speech like all freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution is not absolute. There is a provision in our Revised Penal Code penalizing persons delivering fiery and rousing speeches that lead or tend to stir up the people against lawful authorities or incite others to inflict any act of hate or revenge upon the person or property of any public officer or employee. This is known as inciting to sedition penalized by reclusion perpetua to death (Art.142). Those who are mouthing and threatening another people power if the election results are not favorable to them may be held liable for this crime if their speeches create a clear and present danger to the immediate happening of those seditious acts.

Rather than incite the mob, these candidates and their leaders should expose the alleged fraudulent scheme that will rob the people of the right of suffrage. Exposing these plots now instead of airing those grave and extremely dangerous threats dispels any doubt on their motive and proves that they have the welfare of the country at heart. Refusing or failing to do so only exposes their sinister motive to grab power illegally.

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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