by Ricky Carandang as told to Erwin Romulo
IF YOU’RE RUNNING FOR PUBLIC OFFICE…
The first thing you need is a lot of money. This is what I’ve heard. Assuming you don’t get the votes, then you have to figure out a way to manufacture them. Some of it might be considered improper or unethical, but not necessarily illegal. Well, some of it is plainly illegal, but most of it is in a sort of grey area.
People tell me that local elections actually have a lot more integrity than the national because they’re so closely fought. If you’re a national candidate, you’ll also end up depending on these local guys to bring in the votes and guard them. They basically run the elections—manage the elections in their municipalities on behalf of their candidates, watching each other like a hawk, knowing everybody around. These informal checks and balances on the local level are much more effective. But these guys are gonna be fighting for themselves, you’re secondary if you’re a national candidate. Their concern for you is secondary to their own election. So chances are, they tend not to watch your votes as closely.
WHO GETS PAID?
When I was in Lanao del Sur in 2007, we went to a school where people were being handed out envelopes. I opened one of the envelopes and there was like, 20 bucks. And I found out later on that that was for someone running for the barangay council. I suppose it varies from place to place, and probably increases exponentially depending on the position. In Quezon City or Makati perhaps, the price would probably be a lot different.
WHAT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO CHEAT?
Someone told me that the kind of methods you would employ to guard your votes are the same methods you would use to cheat. Meaning, you would have to pay the same people more or less the same amount to cheat as you would for them to just prevent the other guy from cheating. “Wag kayong magdagdag, wag lang kayo pumayag na magbawas.”
I talked to a candidate known for his integrity. He’s retired now, but during his entire public career no one has ever questioned his honesty. When he was running, his people were telling him, “We don’t want to cheat but you have to at least let us guard your votes.”
Whether you want to cheat or not, you may have no choice but to engage into some form of illegal activity. Even if you want to be honest, you cannot. Because the other guy will not be honest.
BUT AREN’T YOU ONLY ALLOWED TO SPEND SO MUCH…
No one follows that, I’ve heard. Obviously they’ll submit reports that will show that they did. But the truth of the matter is that no one observes election spending limits. On that alone, everybody should be disqualified.
HOW DO YOU CHEAT?
Presumably, the first step is to manipulate the result and, number two, is providing the public plausible explanations for your victory. A year before the elections you have to start paying the people to fix the surveys. You wanna be smooth about it. Because, obviously you can’t come out o f nowhere and all of a sudden become the winner. The public won’t believe it and the public trusts the surveys. So you have to find a way so that there’s a natural progression of your approval in the surveys. That way you are providing the premise for an acceptable victory. Then, you engineer a failure of elections.
HOW DO YOU FIX A SURVEY?
According to some people, you find out where they are going to do the survey. You go there ahead of them and you bribe the barangay. “Here’s a sack of rice from a particular candidate.” Even using generally accepted polling methods, during that survey more people would then mention that candidate’s name. Gradually you’ll see the numbers of that person rise in the polls. You can’t be too early of course. The smooth operator would know how to create a gradual progression that lays the ground for a plausible victory.
HOW DO YOU ENGINEER A FAILURE OF ELECTIONS?
There’s a variety of ways to engineer a failure of elections. Massive power outages on the day itself and documents are lost during the outage. Or intimidation of election officers to make sure that they don’t show up. You can also instigate violence in a certain area, which will require the postponement of the elections.
WHAT DO YOU DO NEXT?
You can buy official election documents. You can bribe the Comelec, the people in the printing office or whatever—and you buy them. At least that’s what people say. We saw that in 2004 and we saw a continuation of that in 2007. Based on personal experience, in Lanao for example, there were blank election documents that were being brought into a hotel room so that the Comelec officials themselves could fill them in. Which is why there are complaints about the handwriting being the same. I saw that in Maguindanao. I saw that in Lanao.
At some point, there’s a switch from the actual ballots or ERs with the manufactured ones. Let’s say the switch happened between the munisipyo and the province—by the time it gets to the province it’s already moot at that point. Everyone from the other end already knows it is switched. The original documents disappear and get destroyed. A smooth operator would have different people doing it.
And, this happens almost always in the same places.
Luzon is fairly honest because there are too many people watching there. And urban areas like Cebu and Davao as well for the same reason. What you can do now is they go to the smaller but less scrutinized areas. You have to go to the places where there are fewer people, less scrutiny…Like ARMM. Or maybe in remote places up North, where nobody even bothers to question. Hopefully if you get enough of that, it adds up to something to take you to the top.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES, CAN YOU STILL DO SOMETHING AFTER ALL THAT?
Yes, I’ve heard about the case of two senatorial candidates. This is what I heard happened: Both had apparently done what they had to do and both were expecting to win. Then, there was a failure of elections and there was a recount and all that. One of them—the one who was actually ahead in votes—had gotten word that the Palace was going with the other guy. If I recall correctly, he calls them up and says that he was gonna blow the lid off on all the cheating if they intervened. With all things being equal, he points out that, “It really was a fair election because we both did the same thing. All of us did. So fair and square whoever wins. I know I will be proclaimed unless you intervene.”
SO DOES ALL OF THIS REALLY WORK?
I’m not the expert but that’s what I’ve been told. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo started going up in the surveys one year before the elections. It was a gradual climb so it seemed plausible. If you remember correctly, it was not until the ‘Hello Garci’ tapes that everybody raised those questions again. The opposition had been howling since day one but the public as a whole pretty much accepted it because it was plausible. (Apart from the fact that people were afraid that FPJ really did win.) The point is, before that scandal, people accepted, grumblingly or not, the result of the election.
CAN’T YOU WIN WITHOUT ALL THIS?
The person whose election has never been questioned was Erap Estrada’s—because he had such a freakin’ wide margin. Nobody could have accused him of cheating. He was really accepted as popular. His victory was so wide that even if De Venecia tried to cheat, it wouldn’t be enough. Cheating has its limits. In a very tight race, that would put you through. But in a case where you have a landslide winner, you can’t.
Originally published in UNO June 2009 issue
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