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Newsbreak: GO, Kampi, party-list groups tie up to protect votes

May 15, 2007 12:26am
Newsbreak: Politics makes strange bedfellows, and today’s elections prove this.

Marginalized in many areas, the Genuine Opposition (GO) has formed a “tactical alliance" with some party-list groups and local candidates of President Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party to protect each other’s the votes.

GO lawyer Sixto Brillantes told Newsbreak that for the canvassing of votes where wholesale cheating is expected to occur in the senatorial elections, the opposition has entered into “informal arrangements" with some local candidates of Kampi and the party-list groups Bayan Muna, Akbayan, Gabriela, and Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (Cibac).

The informal arrangement will be observed in local races where the opposition candidates has no candidates, and therefore have no representatives to claim for its rightful copies of the election returns (ERs).

The ER is the document that summarizes the votes that each national and local candidate gets in a precinct. It has separate pages for the national positions and the local positions. Candidates and political parties refer to the ERs to know the trend of their votes and if they are being cheated. For national positions, the figures in the ERs are then summarized in the municipal statement of votes (SOVs), and the figures in the SOVs are summarized in the provincial certificates of canvass (COCs), which become the basis for the proclamation of winners in the senatorial race.

For Kampi local bets and the party-list groups, this is a most welcome alliance, because this will give them access to copies of the ERs.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared the Liberal Party (LP), a coalition member of GO, as the dominant opposition party, and the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas), a member of the administration’s Team Unity (TU) coalition, as the dominant majority party. So only LP and Lakas are entitled to copies of the ERs.

Although Lakas and Kampi are allies of President Arroyo—they both count her as their chairperson—the Comelec decision favoring Lakas has put at a disadvantage Kampi’s local bets who are running against Lakas candidates. For instance, the provinces of Bulacan, Batangas, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Western Samar, Antique, and Agusan del Norte have been declared as “free zones" because local and congressional candidates of the two pro-administration parties are running against each other.

In Batangas, Kampi gubernatorial bet Armand Sanchez has agreed to swap the election documents with GO for the canvassing, Brillantes said. “Sanchez’s camp will be provided with ER copies of LP. He needs the ER to protect himself locally. In exchange, we expect him to give us copies of the national tally or the COC." Sanchez’s closest rival for the race, Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos, is a candidate of Lakas.

LP president Florencio Abad, who is also campaign manager of GO senatorial candidate Benigno “Noynoy’ Aquino III, cited the congressional races in Bulacan, where Lakas and Kampi bets are fighting it out in two districts. GO has forged a tactical alliance with the Kampi bets in these areas.

The same principle applies to GO’s strategic tie-up with the party-list groups. Although voted for nationwide, party-list groups are not entitled to copies of ERs. “These party-list groups also need ERs for their protection. They come in handy in areas where there are no Kampi candidates," Brillantes said.

Brillantes said party-list groups, especially the established ones, have strong presence nationwide, providing a reliable network of vote protection.

Abad explained that this tactical alliance with party-list groups is crucial in areas “where we are marginally exposed," such as the Cordillera Administrative Region and the provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Vote protection is essential for those lurking in the borderline of the Magic 12 or those who are within striking distance. Abad said that Aquino and Alan Cayetano are subjects of a special cheating operation by Malacañang. Those who have chances of winning but could be preys in cheating operations are opposition bets Navy Lt. SG Antonio Trillanes IV, Aquilino’ Koko" Pimentel III, and Sonio Roco, according to Abad.

GO has fielded candidates only in 144 of the 219 congressional districts, in around 400 of the 1,509 municipalities, and half of 81 gubernatorial posts. The gaping hole in the opposition slate has boosted the confidence of the administration’s TU, which said that the local machinery will defy survey predictions that show opposition senatorial bets garnering most of the 12 senatorial slots.

GO campaign manager Senator Sergio Osmeña III described the setup between GO and Kampi and select party-list groups as “a natural coming together" of groups with a common goal, and that is to protect their votes.

He said that “while the voting maybe relatively clean and peaceful, it is the canvassing that is dirty."
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