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Southern Tagalog progressives protest vs electoral fraud

Fact-checking initiatives also shed light on the spread of fake news, disinformation, and historical revisionism that favored the son of the late dictator, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Words by EJ Lasanas

Various sectors staged a “Black Friday” protest in front of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) last May 13 to condemn the various anomalies in the 2022 national elections.

Mobilizations condemning the anomalous elections began as early as the evening of May 9, election day, where residents from Quezon Province held a vigil until past midnight, May 10.

Similarly, the UP Office of the Student Regent (OSR) encouraged UP students to walkout of their classes following what seemed to be a landslide win favoring late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr the night of May 9.

A day after the elections, various organizations, youth groups, and concerned individuals took their rage to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) office in Intramuros, Manila. They called on the COMELEC to be accountable for the anomalies experienced by voters on election day.

Protesters also denounced the return of the Marcos-Duterte tandem in Malacañang. The fathers of both presumptive president Bongbong Marcos and presumptive vice-president Sara Duterte are notorious for various human rights violations in their respective administrations.

Marcos Sr.’s Martial Law saw thousands of Filipinos arbitrarily arrested and detained, tortured, forcibly disappeared, and killed. Meanwhile, Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war saw at least 7000 individuals killed, according to police records. Most of the victims came from urban poor communities.

Takot sila sa kung ano ang kayang gawin ng mga masang Pilipino na inoorganisa! Hindi lang tayo magpapatalsik ng presidente. Magpapatalsik din tayo ng bise-presidente!” a spokesperson from Kabataan Partylist – Southern Tagalog said during a mobilization last May 10, a day after the elections.

[“They fear what the organized Filipino masses can achieve! We will not only oust a president. We will also oust a vice-president!”]

Last May 17, a petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy (COC) of Marcos Jr. reached the Supreme Court.

The said petition was filed in November by a group of civic leaders, saying that “Marcos committed a crime of moral turpitude and perjury for making false representations in his COC on his eligibility despite his tax conviction”.

“Elections are more than a numbers game. The will of the people as expressed through the ballot cannot cure the vice of ineligibility. The balance must always tilt in favor of upholding and enforcing the law,” the petitioners wrote.

In 1995, Marcos Jr. was found guilty for nonpayment of taxes and failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985. The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) also confirmed that they have been trying to collect unpaid estate taxes from Marcos Sr’s heirs – Imelda Marcos and Marcos Jr. – which were worth P23 billion in 1997. Lawyers contesting the candidacy of Marcos Jr. estimated that the debt might have already reached around P200 billion.

Apart from the condemnation on the return of Marcos-Duterte, protesters also declared “COMELEC palpak!” during the mobilization, with the election day marred by thousands of anomalies all across the country.

Various sectors stage “Black Friday” protest.
Photo by Alex Delis

Numerous election anomalies

272 election anomalies were reported in Southern Tagalog alone, election watchdog Kontra Daya Southern Tagalog (ST) reported on a Facebook post last May 9.

Election anomalies include vote-counting machine (VCM) errors and malfunctions, disobedience and violations in the election process, vote receipt incompatibility, pre-shaded ballots, vote-buying, registered voter’s name exclusion, illegal campaigning, power interruption, flying voters, election violence, and terror-tagging, among others.

100 VCM errors were recorded across the region, while around 2000 machines malfunctioned all over the country.

In Southern Tagalog, Laguna recorded the most VCM errors with 36 cases in 16 operating precincts. This was followed by Batangas (22 VCM errors), Cavite (21 VCM errors), Quezon (12 VCM errors), and Rizal (9 VCM errors).

Nag-malfunction ang karamihan ng mga VCM. Sa kalakhang mga presinto, sinabihan na lang ng EB [electoral board] ang mga botante na iiwan ang kanilang mga ballot para sa EB na lang ang mag-batch process,” said Kontra Daya Southern Tagalog in their summary report.

[“Most of the VCM malfunctioned. With a large number of precincts, the EB told the voters to just leave their ballot so they will be the ones to do the batch process.”]

Kontra Daya Southern Tagalog added that few VCMs were available in exchange for dysfunctional ones. There were also recorded absences of Commission on Elections (COMELEC) technicians to repair the malfunctioning VCMs. 

Moreover, there were also cases of unread votes by the VCMs, especially the names of some senatorial candidates. 

There were 19 recorded vote receipts anomalies in the region, the most coming from Cavite. Six cases of vote receipt anomalies in Laguna included cases of incongruency with the voter’s choice and the released receipts. There were also reports that the Election Board did not show the receipts.

Moreover, there were also cases of no released receipts from the VCM. In some cases, there were no printed voter receipts due to lack of paper as reported.

In Southern Tagalog, there were 14 recorded rejected ballots. Moreover, there are also cases of tampered barcodes causing the VCM to reject the ballots in Cavite.

Laguna reported that some ballots were torn while in the VCM. Some were crumpled and some were inked and turned invalid.

Furthermore, there were also reports of paper jams recorded, but the COMELEC did not provide a new ballot as only one ballot per voter was reportedly allowed.

Ulat ng VCM malfunction, paper jam, at errors simula 7AM. Naghahang nang matagal ang mga VCM. Ito ay nagdulot ng mahabang pila at pagalis ng ilang mga botante,” Kontra Daya Southern Tagalog added.

[“In a report, VCM malfunction, paper jams, and errors started at 7 AM. The VCMs were not working properly for a long time and caused long queues and departure of some voters.”]

Due to the various VCM anomalies, voters were ordered to leave their ballots: “May pagkakataon na tatlong beses hindi binasa ang isang balota at sa ika-apat na pagkakataon ay pinirmahan na lang ng EB ang balota.

[There were cases that after three tries on the VCM and the ballots still failed to be read, on the fourth time, the EB would just sign the ballot.] 

Kontra Daya stressed that voters “should be given the option to feed the ballots into the machines, and receive their receipts” after COMELEC Commissioner George Garcia said voters have “no choice” but to leave their ballots to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) when VCMs crash.

While voters have the option to allow the BEIs to feed their ballots by signing a waiver, it is recommended that voters should be the ones to do so and may decide to wait for the VCM to get fixed or replaced.

“We cannot blame voters for refusing to leave their ballots to the BEI because of the general distrust with the automated polls,” Kontra Daya stated in a Facebook post.

Election-related anomalies.
Layout by John Vincent

Election violations and cases of violence

32 reported violations on the election process in Southern Tagalog were also recorded.

In Batangas, Kontra Daya recorded incidents of teachers chanting “Bongbong” repeatedly in the voting area. Additionally, one of the staff in a certain voting area was reported dictating a poorly-visioned voter who to vote.

Meanwhile, campaign flyers were handed out in Cavite during the election day itself, while some poll watchers were reported to have peeked at the ballots of voters. 

Similar reports were recorded in Laguna, where continuous handing out of campaign materials near the precincts was observed.

Illegal campaigning was spotted in a school in Rizal and three schools in Quezon as sample ballots and campaign materials were still given out on election day. Moreover, there were also sample ballots posted near a voting precinct in Rizal.

Cavite tallied the most number of vote-buying incidents across the region with six, followed by two cases in Quezon, and one in Laguna. In Cavite, cash was reportedly handed out in envelopes, while rice and money were distributed with campaign materials in Laguna.

In Quezon, “enlisted” voters were told to head to the barangay outpost, which was just outside the voting center, in order for them to sign to receive money.

Other election anomalies included reports of pre-shaded ballots in six precincts in Cavite and one precinct in Quezon.

There were also cases in which some registered voters were excluded from the list of voters in some precincts. Three cases were reported from both Cavite and Laguna, and one in Rizal.

A total of 42 cases of election-related violence in Southern Tagalog were recorded, with Laguna having the most number of cases across the region, tallying 16 cases.

In Laguna, police and military presence were observed in 11 schools. Non-uniformed policemen in the polling center area in Quezon were also spotted, with additional reports that the police were taking pictures of ballots.

Non-uniformed and armed police and military were also spotted inside the grounds of four schools in Batangas, as well as armed police personnel inside some voting precincts in Cavite.

In Rizal, there was a report of armed policemen with heavy rifles. In Antipolo National High School, two to three police were stationed at the entrance.

In a post of Kontra Daya Southern Tagalog, the group clarified that military and police are strictly prohibited inside the voting and poll watching site. 

Furthermore, under COMELEC Resolution No. 10728 promulgated on November 10, 2021, for the May 2022 elections, no person is allowed to carry firearms. Exemption to this is the regular member of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and other law enforcement agencies “who are duly deputized in writing by the commission on election duty[ …] during election day” provided that they are in full uniform with their clearly visible name, rank and serial number all throughout the election period, and in actual performance and in a specified area specifically designated by the COMELEC.

Military presence inside a voting precinct Cavite.
Photo from Kontra Daya Southern Tagalog

Intensified red-tagging vs progressive candidates

In addition to election anomalies and violence, there were also incidents of red-tagging reported across Southern Tagalog.

Tarpaulins red-tagging progressive party-lists from the Makabayan Bloc were spotted at various polling centers in Southern Tagalog.

In Cavite, a message was forwarded in a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) group chat of Cavite State University (CvSU)-Main Campus students red-tagging party-lists and senatorial candidates under Makabayan Bloc. The said list includes the party-lists Kabataan, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and ACT Teachers. The list also includes senatorial bets Baguilat, De Lima, Diokno, Espiritu, Escudero, and Hontiveros, who are all endorsed by the Makabayan Bloc.

In San Antonio, San Pedro, Laguna, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Kabataan partylists are branded as “allies” of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) on a tarpaulin.

In Rizal, a tarpaulin bearing the title of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), Rizal Police Provincial Office, and the 80th Infantry Battalion tags the CPP-NPA-NDF as a terrorist organization.

The CPP-NPA-NDF had clarified that they are a revolutionary group and are therefore not terrorists because terrorism is antithetical to revolution (READ: Understanding the legitimacy of the democratic revolution).

A day before the elections, the Makabayan Bloc called for an emergency press conference to condemn the spread of a fake COMELEC resolution stating their party-lists’ disqualification. According to the resolution, Makabayan Bloc party-lists and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares were disqualified by the COMELEC First Division.

Assistant minority leader and Gabriela representative Arlene Brosas clarified that there is no pending Aguilar vs Bayan Muna et al case since it has been dismissed in 2020. 

Aguilar vs Bayan Muna et al is a case filed to cancel the registration of the partylists under Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives and to disqualitfy Neri Colmerares from the senatorial race in 2019. 

Petitioner Angela Aguilar stated grounds against Bayan Muna such as “advocating violence or unlawful means to seek their goal, and violating or failing to comply with laws, rules, or regulations relating to elections”. This case was junked by the Commission on Election’s First Division on January 30, 2020.

Bayan Muna representative Carlos Zarate added in the press conference that they are certain that the NTF-ELCAC is behind the demolition job considering the task force’s history of red-tagging progressive individuals and groups.

Apila namin sa COMELEC na sunsunin ito at kasuhan ang mga nagpakana dahil malala itong ginamit ang logo at letterhead ng komisyon sa mga pekeng dokumento at umasta talagang mula sa kanila.  Misyon talaga nitong linlangin ang mga botante, at isabotahe ang kandidatura ng mga progresibong party-list at ni Neri Colmenares,” said Anakpawis national president Ariel Casilao in a statement.

[“We urge the COMELEC to press charges against those behind this incident because the suspects even used their logo and letterhead and acted as if it really came from the COMELEC. It is clear that the goal is to deceive voters and sabotage the candidacy of progressive party-lists as well as of Neri Colmenares.”]

Tarpaulins red-tagging Makabayan bloc.

Machinery of disinformation and historical revisionism

Fact-checking initiatives also shed light on the spread of fake news, disinformation, and historical revisionism that favored Marcos Jr.

“The 2022 elections are a turning point in our nation’s political history. We are not just facing an unprecedented amount of misleading and malicious propaganda, but [also] the continued threat of corruption and human rights violations, and the possible return of dictatorship,” said Akademya at Bayan Laban sa Disimpormasyon at Dayaan (ABKD).

Sinalaula na ng kampanyang Marcos-Duterte ang eleksyong 2022 maraming taon bago pa ito nagsimula. Nagpapakalat sila ng baha ng palsong balita, baluktot na kasaysayan, at walang basehang paninira’t red-tagging,” added ABKD in a Facebook post.

[“The Marcos-Duterte campaign marred the 2022 election many years before it began. They spread fake news, twisted history, and baseless slander and red-tagging.”]

The disinformation and historical revisionism favoring Marcos Jr. are extensively amplified according to a report by Rappler, especially in the social media space.

In Tsek.Ph’s fack-checking initiative, they discovered multiple attempts of erasing “discreditable record” of Marcos on social media. 

“The martial law fact checks indicated how disinformation was used to rehabilitate Marcos who held power from 1965 to 1986 when he was ousted by the people-led uprising. The Marcos dictatorship was responsible for human rights violations, extrajudicial killings, press censorship and plunder. It also plunged the country into an economic crisis,” Tsek.Ph wrote.

Accordingly, Rappler claimed that there are hundreds of dubious claims related to the Marcoses and the Martial Law circulating on social media. The claims appear to rewrite history by circulating “shocking” information “generally portrayed as having been hidden from the public by historians and the biased press”.

Additionally, a massive amount of disinformation propaganda has been produced and extensively shared on public social media platforms such as websites, Facebook pages and groups, and the like, as a part of their campaign. This was done to clean the image and negative public perception of the Marcoses to the people, which eventually paved their way back to the Palace. 

Most propaganda contents include “outrightly denying kleptocracy and human rights violations during the Martial Law years, exaggerating Marcos achievements, and vilifying critics, rivals, and mainstream media”.

A study by Digital Public Pulse Project (DPP), under the Philippine Media Monitoring Laboratory, found indicators of “networked political manipulation” in relation to the 2022 elections in which “Youtube channels carrying Marcos Jr. content – accounts either owned or aligned with the dictator’s son – are rising in influence”.

Furthermore, Professor Fatima Gaw, assistant professor of communication research at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication and co-lead researcher of DPP, stated that disinformation “is really priming the audience to rationalize [the Marcos] lies and distortions”.

The long-time disinformation machinery of Marcos Jr. has greatly benefited him in his presidential campaign.

Nagbuhos sila ng milyon-milyon sa makina ng disimpormasyon hanggang halos hindi na makaagapay ang mga nagtataguyod ng katotohanan at mga mananalaysay ng mga tunay na kwento ng bayan,” said ABKD in a statement posted in their Facebook page.

[“They poured millions into the machinery of disinformation until historians and proponents of truth could hardly counter.”]

Moreover, Carl Ramota, a professor of UP Manila and member of ABKD said that “spreading information is political, but more so the deliberate spreading of wrong information that usually comes from groups or individuals that are ‘well-funded, well-oiled and well-organized’”.

Ang mga bihasa sa pagnanakaw ay nakakagawa ng bagong mga paraan para magnakaw ng eleksyon,” ABKD concluded in their statement.

[“Those who are theft masters are able to come up with new ways to steal elections.”] [P]

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