VARIOUS attempts to scuttle the barangay elections on May 14, 2018 have failed, so the election of officials in the country’s smallest political subdivision will be held as scheduled. And yet it is the May 2019 midterm senatorial election that appears to be causing a premature election fever in the media and among our national politicians. The race is still one year away, and there are no declared official candidates yet, but the crooked pollsters are already at work, and some lawless characters are already advertising themselves on electronic billboards in a way that circumvents the law against premature campaigning.

A bogus survey

Last Saturday, the morning dailies carried the purported results of an alleged survey conducted by Pulse Asia (some people would rather call it False Asia) on the voters’ supposed preferences for the 2019 senatorial election. The Philippine Star reported the alleged results as its front-page banner story, complete with individual mug shots of the allegedly preferred senatorial characters. But completely missing in the story were the most important basic facts important to the voters.

Who commissioned the survey? Why was it conducted at this time? How many people, and from where, were interviewed for it, assuming actual interviews were held? How were the “samples” (interviewees) chosen, and how were they interviewed—face-to-face, by text messaging, or by telephone? What questions were asked? In what sequence were the questions asked? How was the initial list of the senatorial prospects arrived at? Did the interviewees make up their own list, or were they presented a prepared one? How much did each interested senatorial prospect pay to be included in the initial list? And how much did they pay in order to obtain favorable ratings?

Especially in this business, there is no such thing as a free lunch. It is the usual con game.

Pollsters or fraudsters?

I have long proposed that before we continue listening to the so-called opinion polls on our failed politics and politicians, we should first ask an internationally recognized and respected polling firm, if we could find one, to find out if, and how many, thoughtful Filipinos believe the alleged opinion polls of our crooked pollsters (whom I’d rather call fraudsters) who have long taken our naive and unusually trusting countrymen for a ride. This has not occurred.

We continue to have so-called surveys that manufacture rather than reflect public opinion, purely for mind-conditioning. Because both the survey and the elections are manipulated, the results ultimately confirm the “accuracy” of the predictions. The practice has legitimized our manipulated elections by Smartmatic, the Venezuelan election provider, and put our automated elections under a cloud which seems to have grown darker and heavier, especially after recent revelations that Strategic Communications Laboratories and Cambridge Analytica had used the social media to influence the results of our last presidential elections.

Despite claims from sources associated with SCL and Cambridge Analytica that the firms helped DU30 in the last election, his staunchest defenders insist it was B.S. Aquino 3rd, not DU30, who had benefited from the firms’ intervention. One claim does not contradict the other. It is possible both presidents were helped by the technology providers. But even without them weighing in, the local manipulators are sufficient to guarantee a flawed election. And they are at it again.

DU30’s real agenda

This is dangerous enough. But the greater danger lies beyond the usual manipulation of our elections. Serious analysts fear the barangay elections, which DU30 had tried until the last minute to scuttle, could be our last election before DU30’s single term expires on June 30, 2022. Despite DU30’s efforts to make it appear he is preparing for the midterm senatorial election, saying, among other things, that he would like to see his “indispensable” special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go run in said election, and despite the prodigious efforts of some ambitious characters to launch their own campaign now, many suspect DU30 has no real commitment to the electoral process but would rather want to run the country, if he can, like China’s President Xi Jinping.

Many are convinced DU30 remains determined to establish a revolutionary government in coaliton with the communists, but is afraid of being outmaneuvered by his former professor and founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Jose Maria Sison, or by any other communist leader who is not yet part of his government. He has no problem with the communists who are directly under the ex-priest LeoncioEvasco Jr., the Cabinet Secretary and vice chairman of the National Democratic Front. But not with the Sisonites.

Emboldened by China

DU30 had earlier cut off peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF in Oslo, and declared the CPP and NPA as “terrorist groups.”The Department of Justice then asked the Regional Trial Court of Manila to judicially confirm his declaration. But his strong open ties with China, which have allowed at least half a million Chinese “laborers” (and counting) to roam around the country, and his suspected clandestine contacts with North Korea, which some suspect have allowed secret unintercepted arms landings and stockpilings in Luzon, may have suggested he had nothing to worry about from Sison and his Sisonites, so he decided to give the peace talks one final chance.

But because DU30 continues to flipflop, no one seems to know his real endgame, and the military needs to be persuaded that the peace talks will end the threat of a communist takeover, which could come not from those in the peace talks or in the hills, but from those who are already with DU30, inside his government.

Many tend to view the unwarranted burst of political and media enthusiasm about the next distant elections as a necessary distraction, a smokescreen, to prevent the otherwise perceptive from seeing DU30’s real political plan.

Even if all these fears turn out to be pure paranoia, or a mere figment of the imagination—and how I wish they all were—the political dance currently being staged by Malacañang and our self-seeking politicians is certainly one way of keeping our minds away from various threats that have engulfed the nation.

What they aren’t doing

The Senate and its members could have addressed and should be addressing any number of these problems. But aside from holding sensational committee hearings on some sensational issues, they have managed to distance themselves away from problems that involve fundamental sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security questions. As a former senator, who served as Majority Leader to five Senate presidents, I find myself many times publicly addressing these problems without any cost to the taxpayer more than any sitting senator.

So, since not all sitting senators would be replaced in the 2019 elections, assuming DU30 does not postpone or scrap the elections altogether, it is probably imperative to consider not so much whether we should have more boxers and third-class entertainers in the upper chamber as whether we should continue having the Senate as presently constituted at all. We should not be afraid to review the record and conclude that the institution has withered, root and branch, and should perhaps be given a decent burial now.

The Senate is supposed to be the highest deliberative assembly in our constitutional democratic system. Parliamentary debate is what gives life and substance to its existence. All that is gone. When was the last time we heard meaningful Senate floor debates on an important national or international question? When was the last time a senator exercised his conscience or his patriotism to raise his voice on an issue involving the degradation of our constitutional system? Have we ever heard any father or mother sitting as a senator remind the electronic media to cut off any speech on radio and television that uses profanities that vulgarize both adults and children?

Losing our rights to China

When the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled on July 12, 2016 that there is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within its so-called “nine-dash line,” and that China has violated Philippine sovereign rights by claiming certain sea areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic sone (EEZ), not overlapped by any possible entitlement by China, and DU30 decided to set aside the arbitral ruling and deal with China, which rejected the ruling, as though neither the ruling nor China’s rejection of it ever happened, did any resolution cross the floor of the Senate to question the President’s action? Did any senator ever point out how the late Sen. Arturo Tolentino fought for the archipelagic doctrine during the long-drawn-out UN Conference on the Law of the Sea to secure the rights of the Philippines forever?

When China finally began its “build buildbuild” program on our islands and shoals in the Spratlys for their eventual militarization, did any senator ever rise to denounce the illegal occupation, and DU30’s assent and submission to China’s action? Senate President Koko Pimentel whom DU30 had installed in his position by virtue of his being a Mindanaoan and president of PDP Laban, which he used as his party in the last election, compounded the offense by entering into a partnership with the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army, which is reported to have already sent several tens of thousands of its members here.

Copying Burundi

When on March 14, 2018 DU30 announced the withdrawal of the Philippines from the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court at The Hague to protest the decision of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to examine a “communication” on the extrajudicial killings under DU30 filed by Mindanao lawyer Jude Sabio and supplemented by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, did the Senate ever react as a body, or did any senator rise to point out that the Philippines had signed the treaty to protect its own national interests, not simply to serve the President’s personal interests, and that DU30 had no right to bring down the country to the level of Burundi?

When DU30, before flying off to Hainan Island on his last hastilyarranged visit to China, attacked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and called on the Congress to remove her by impeachment and on the Supreme Court to remove her through quo warranto (by what warrant?) proceedings, did the Senate react as a body, or did any of its brave members (with the exception of the jailed Leila de Lima and Trillanes) ever dare to point out that he was committing an impeachable offense himself, and formally inaugurating a dictatorship?

Reinventing the guillotine

And when it was reported that Associate Justice Noel Tijam, DU30’s first appointee to the high court, had already finished a 60-page draft ousting Sereno from the court, even before the oral arguments took place in the Baguio summer courthouse, did any senator ever try to remind the justices that under the Constitution, which is the highest law of the land, no impeachable official—and Sereno is one—can be removed except by impeachment?

And as reports pile up suggesting that the justices are determined to please DU30 and oust Sereno on the basis of their own non-existent and self-invented authority, which seeks to ultimately extinguish the Constitution, has any senator ever found the courage to warn the justices that such an act could put not only Sereno’s head but also their own at the guillotine, and launch not just a bloodless revolution?

CORRECTION. In my April 13 column (“Armageddon?”), “ballistic missiles” should have read “cruise missiles.”

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