COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
I guess our most available tool to ensure an honest and peaceful election is modern technology, and I’m referring to the communications system. For in this kind of electoral exercise, the most applicable method of vigilance is the speedy flow of information. Any untoward events of fraud or violence can be checked through the information network.
Communication line is important and should be established, strengthened, and maintained; the wider the chain and the stronger the link, the better. This should start from the top, down to the precinct level.
Media has its own chain, with its radio and television networks. Security forces like the military and the police have their own chains. But that is not enough. Organizations must maintain their own line of communications. Government and non-government organizations, people’s organizations, civil society, existing political, religious and other social groups must maintain their own networks, with open and clear communication lines.
In this way, information clusters will be formed. These clusters are the most that we can avail since we don’t have a unified information network, unlike in the industrialized states where information is passed through the computers, fast and clear. Once these clusters are activated and mobilized, they would form a bigger web of communication lines, covering a wider area of responsibility. The matter with us is that if nobody knows what’s happening in your place, people and events are either counted out, considered non-existent, or worse, framed-up.
Each cluster will be channeling information to each other; from the precincts, to the political parties, to the media, to the police, to the Comelec, and so on. The faster the information flow, the faster the necessary intervention can be given. For in this one day casting of votes, the most that we can achieve in efficiency in the speediest in the information flow. Managing information is our way of control.
Coordination may pose as a problem but in our present situation where we cannot know whom to trust, each different force will have its own coordination in the handling of information. The government has the Comelec, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Philippine National Police as its main channels. Political parties will likewise compose their respective networks. Electoral watchdogs like the Namfrel among others, will form as another force. Other citizens’ groups will eventually coordinate with each other and will represent a significant force.
These different forces will be checking each other, canceling out and distilling information contents. Like during the previous national elections when there was more than one group conducting the counting of ballots. The presence of discrepancy in the number of votes suggests fraud. Indeed, the existence of these different forces prevents one force, or any political party for that matter, to dominate, which gives way to violations of election procedures.
At least at this point in time, we have at our disposals the availability of modern communication equipment like direct-dial phones, cell phones, telex and fax machines, the net, and hand held radios for use in the far-flung areas. We have also video cameras and other high-tech paraphernalia in photography to be used in documentation processes. Then there are the computers that are widely used in the cities and are becoming more available in the towns.
In a fledging democracy like ours, the most that we can achieve towards stability is to improve the systems and structures in each electoral
exercise. This year’s national elections won’t be our last and should not be left at the hands by those who see no hope in an honest result that they
would result to cheating, or by those who would see elections as the best time for opportunism that they violate election procedures, or worse, by those who couldn’t care less brought about by apathy and disillusionment in the whole electoral process.
Vigilance is each citizen’s duty; the price we have to pay for freedom. We’ve fought hard in order to be counted, so we must fight hard in order for our voice to be truly counted.