Prospects regarding the May 9 elections

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With a few more days left, the attention of the Filipino people is drawn to the May 9 presidential elections. To lend clarity to the slew of events and intense propaganda battle, Ang Bayan interviewed CPP Chief Information Officer Marco L. Valbuena to provide an analysis of the situation and prospects.

How would you characterize the 2022 elections?

The May 9 elections have developed into a crucial battleground in the fight against the perpetuation of the Duterte tyranny and attempts to restore the Marcos family to power. The most significant development has been the groundswell of the anti-Marcos and anti-Duterte movement around the campaign of Vice President Leni Robredo. The almost nightly mass demonstrations participated in by hundreds of thousands of people in different parts of the country have served to give form to the Filipino people’s anger against the Duterte tyrannical regime.

From the more strategic and revolutionary viewpoint, the upcoming presidential election is mainly a contest between rival factions of the ruling classes to select the next chief of the neo-colonial state and administrator of the rotten semicolonial and semifeudal system. As in the past, the elections are a pseudo-democratic political exercise where only members or representatives of the moneyed ruling classes can have a meaningful chance of being elected.

What do you think will be the outcome of the upcoming elections?

We must consider, first of all, the fact that since the automated election system (AES) was introduced in 2010, the outcome of Philippine elections is determined primarily by the ruling clique that controls the Comelec and the electoral system. Rigging the elections (vote shaving and vote padding) has become a simple matter of programming the counting and canvassing machines or computers. This is further combined with pre-shading of ballots with cash incentives to voters. Fraud has become much more prevalent but less easier to detect under the AES because it leaves people with no means to count their votes, cross check the results and determine whether the canvassing truthfully reflect their votes.

Are you saying that since Duterte controls the AES, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will be declared winner of the May 9 elections?

For certain, the AES is stacked in favor of Marcos Jr having Duterte on his side. Duterte’s repeated declarations that he will remain neutral in relation to the presidential race is a false claim. How can Duterte be neutral when his daughter is running in tandem with Marcos Jr., when he recently conferred with Marcos in Malacañang, when his appointees in the Comelec dismissed the disqualification case against Marcos, and when his party and closest minions are openly campaigning for Marcos? Duterte is projecting neutrality only to avoid accusations of rigging the elections in favor of Marcos. Marcos’ recent statements warning of fraud against him are a feint to downplay the fact that it is he and the Dutertes who are in the position to commit fraud through the AES.

Of course, pre-shaded ballots, vote-shaving and vote-padding through the AES are not without limits. They cannot do so beyond what is credible or plausible. If Duterte would manipulate the AES to have Isko Moreno or Norberto Gonzales win, the results of the elections would be rejected outright by the people. This is the reason why the Duterte-Marcos camp has long been pouring funds to create the false image of an insurmountable lead against other candidates to condition the minds of the people to accept a rigged elections favoring Marcos.

The recent Pulse Asia survey shows Marcos leading Robredo 56% to 23%. Is this not proof that Marcos is way ahead?

Election surveys, especially when conducted by single source, are all part of manipulating people’s perceptions and mind conditioning. To believe that Pulse Asia surveys are not tainted with political or financial interests is political naiveté.

Pulse Asia just destroyed itself with its recent implausible survey showing virtually no change in the numbers despite the clear groundswell of support for Robredo marked by massive demonstrations across the country since early March. Its role in the election mind-conditioning was further exposed when its spokesperson insisted that there will be “no surprises” and that results of the elections will reflect its April 16-21 survey. They brushed aside criticism by statisticians claiming they have “different kind of methodologies.”

Given the recent survey of Pulse Asia, would you say that a Marcos win is inevitable and will be credible, even with vote-shaving and vote-padding?

No, a Marcos win is not inevitable. The surveys are only part of the war for public perception. Marcos’ supposed insurmountable lead is, in fact, a myth as shown by the rise of the broad people’s movement that is determined to frustrate the Duterte tyranny and the scheme for the Marcos return to power. With the massive demonstrations consistently participated in by hundreds of thousands to half a million people, the Filipino people and their broad anti-tyranny movement are confident they can defeat Marcos in the elections.

What are the other factors that will determine the outcome of the elections?

Perceptions, mind-conditioning and fraud are important factors, but there are also powerful extraneous factors at play. Particularly important, especially in the 2022 elections, is how the US and China, both imperialist powers, will play the game of chess to protect their strategic interests in the country.

On the one hand, while the US maintains links with all factions of the ruling classes, in all likelihood, it prefers that the next head of its client-state will not sidle to Xi Jinping as did Duterte to pursue his bureaucrat capitalist interests. With its links among Filipino business groups and political parties, as well as in the military and police, the US can create conditions to its favor. Guess who is behind the recanting of two key witnesses’ testimonies against Sen. Leila de Lima which seem to tell Duterte and his ilk that they hold ace cards against them?

On the other hand, preferring a continuum of Duterte dual puppetry, China, which has been developing ties with powerful bureaucratic capitalists and military and police officers, can also put its chess pieces to play.

What should the broad anti-tyranny movement do before and after the elections?

Over the next few days, the anti-tyranny movement against the Marcos-Duterte tandem must show their strength by launching nationwide marches and million-strong mass demonstrations. Should they and Robredo succeed in rallying more than a million people in her miting de avance, they can establish unequivocally that Robredo, is really the winning candidate.

The anti-tyranny movement must be able to sustain their mass mobilizations and night-long vigils from May 9 onwards to closely guard the canvassing of votes and stay alert for any and all signs of fraud. This is, of course, not easy to accomplish under the AES and Duterte’s absolute control of the Comelec.

Will there be a mass uprising if Marcos wins like what happened in 1986?

A Marcos win through automated vote-shaving and vote-padding will surely generate conditions for massive protest demonstrations, just like massive fraud in the February 7, 1986 favoring the dictator Marcos did to touch off the series of events leading to the EDSA uprising. It would be mechanical, however, to conclude that past historical events will repeat automatically. The ruling reactionaries have also learned from the past.

In 1986, fraud could only be committed by Marcos through the blatant manual alteration of canvassing results which prompted Comelec employees to walk-out en masse from their stations. Today, under the AES, fraud can be committed by a small circle of programmers, more effectively concealing any anomaly. Duterte knows he has to hide all evidence of fraud in order to disarm or pull the legal rug under the political opposition and anti-tyranny forces. His Comelec appointees must be zealously loyal to him.

Duterte is keenly aware how any hint of election fraud or anomaly can ignite the people’s anger and provoke them to mount massive demonstrations. If this happens despite all his efforts, it is not beyond Duterte to resort to false flag operations, blame “communist disruption” and attack the opposition and the broad anti-tyranny movement by carrying out the arrests of key leaders, participants or supporters of the political opposition, and ensure the transition and transfer of power to his chosen successor by June.

What are the prospects under the next government?

Whether Marcos or Robredo assumes power, the Party does not expect any fundamental change in the country’s economic system which is the base of the entire semicolonial and semifeudal system. This means, the ruling economic classes of big bourgeois compradors, that is the big capitalists who collude with foreign monopoly capitalists, and big landlords, will remain on top of the Philippine social pyramid.

The next regime, however, will confront prospects of a worsening crisis in the face of prolonged international crisis that is weighing down on the country’s import- and debt-dependent and export-oriented economy. It will be under pressure from foreign banks and multinational companies to implement more neoliberal measures to generate more revenue to pay for the country’s ₱12 trillion foreign debt, borrow more money, repress workers’ wages, remove all remaining restrictions to the plunder and extraction of the country’s minerals and other resources, and further open the economy to the dumping of surplus agricultural and consumer goods.

In the face of a worsening socioeconomic crisis, the broad masses of toiling people will become even more restive and demand urgent measures such as substantial wage increases and state measures to lower the prices of fuel, food and other commodities to immediately uplift the people’s conditions, and urgent measures to address the pandemic especially in the face of threats of a resurgence of Covid-19 infections. The momentum of the anti-Marcos and anti-Duterte movement over the past months will carry past the elections in the form of more mass protests raising urgent people’s demands. The social, economic and political crisis are bound to worsen in the coming years and continue to generate conditions favorable to armed revolution.

The incoming government will serve as the new administrator of the US client-state. It will face the situation of heightening US military operations in East and Southeast Asia as part of its efforts to contain and provoke China; and to intensify brutal counterinsurgency operations that consume US surplus weapons. It will also face increasing efforts of China to secure its economic and geopolitical interests and its push to export its surplus capital (in the form of loans) and extract raw materials from backward countries such as the Philippines.

What will happen if Marcos Jr. wins the upcoming elections?

To the Marcoses, returning to Malacañang is an opportunity to reverse the judgement of history, further whitewash the abuses and corruption under Marcos’ martial law, and recover and aggrandize their wealth. They can rehabilitate their cronies, recover their ill-gotten property from government control, appoint new court judges to dismiss corruption cases, and of course, maximize new opportunities to accumulate power and wealth. Bribe-taking and pocketing funds in infrastructure projects will intensify. All of these will likely take place under the veneer of “unity”, “moving on”, and most ironically, “anti-corruption.”

Like Duterte, Marcos Jr. will turn to populist rhetoric and fascist suppression under the guise of the “war on terror” and use the Anti-Terror Law against the people and the political opposition and keep the people powerless. He will prioritize strengthening loyalties in the military and police to secure his rule and use the state’s armed agents to silence critics.

A Marcos Jr. presidency will surely further galvanize the broad anti-fascist and anti-tyranny united front. It will re-energize demands for justice for the tens of thousands of victims of military and police abuses, massacres, torture, killings, political detention and other gross violations of human rights under the 14-year Marcos dictatorship. A Marcos Jr presidency will serve to clearly prove the necessity and justness of waging armed struggle.

The anti-tyranny movement will have to continue to strengthen and broaden itself. It must continue to campaign to counter the massive disinformation promoted by the Marcoses. The progressive and democratic forces must wage a counter-cultural revolution against the pervasive feudal and slave mentality which has allowed the lies of the Marcoses to thrive.

What will happen if Leni Robredo wins the upcoming elections?

A Robredo presidency will have to face the broad democratic demand to prosecute Duterte and all his minions for rampant crimes perpetrated in the course of the sham “war on drugs” and the brutal counterinsurgency campaign. She will face the people’s demand for Duterte to be thrown in jail.

The anti-tyranny and democratic movement that gained strength over the past months around Robredo’s campaign will likely demand her government to take immediate steps to release political prisoners, to end the military’s policy of persecuting, red-tagging and terrorist-labelling of patriotic and democratic forces, to end the campaign of aerial bombing, and to pursue peace negotiations.

In the course of her campaign, Robredo has made a broad range of promises to workers, and other groups representing the oppressed and impoverished sectors. In the face of the acute economic crisis, she will have to address the demands of the people for urgent measures seeking immediate relief, including wage increases, rollback in fuel prices, free public health, increase in the education budget, an end to rampant smuggling and dumping of surplus agricultural produce, tax reductions and so on.

At the same time, she will be expected to carry out concrete action to realize her promises to defend the country’s sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea and protect the rights of Filipino fishermen in the face of Chinese intrusions, and at the same time, to heed the demand to abrogate the Mutual Defense Treaty and other unequal military agreements with the US which allows the US to carry out military intervention and use the country as a large military base to position US troops and weaponry.

On the other hand, Robredo will have to confront the likelihood of a senate and congress that is under Duterte’s majority control. The AFP and the NTF-Elcac will also likely stand against any change in its aerial bombing drive and oppressive counterinsurgency operations. Robredo is also not known to oppose neoliberal measures which have debilitated the local economy and caused grave sufferings to the people.

What will be the tasks of the Party and revolutionary movement under the new government?

Whatever the outcome of the May 9 presidential elections, the Party must continue to advance the people’s revolutionary struggle. It must persevere in strengthening itself and all revolutionary forces. It must continue to lead and strengthen the New People’s Army and wage, raise and expand the revolutionary armed struggle. It must further increase and strengthen the organs of political power in the countryside, strengthen and multiply Party branches in both the cities and countryside, strengthen the underground mass organizations and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), strengthening its leadership of the people’s democratic struggles in the cities, and other important tasks as enumerated by the Central Committee in its message last March 29 and December 26.

Guided by these mid- and long-term tasks for advancing the people’s democratic revolution, the Party will face the specific situation after May 9 as events unfold.

AB: Prospects regarding the May 9 elections