Ghost stories on 2004 election fraud

This paper’s Talk of the Town last week, which Manuel Alcuaz’s piece, “Fraud in the 2004 Presidential Elections,” was, well, a ghost story. According to the editor’s introduction, there was this “rediscovery” of Alcuaz’s paper submitted way back in 2006.

“By coincidence or serendipity,” the introduction said, was the piece found, and when the editor decided to run it he was surprised (now you can hear that “X-Files” theme in the background) to learn that Alcuaz had passed away. Not only that, you are supposed to have gooseflesh. According to the introduction, when the editor called up the number in the cover letter to talk to Alcuaz, the phone company message was the number had yet to be assigned. (Reality check: The news on the death of Alcuaz, the fire-brand Linggoy’s brother, and a personality in the IT and management circles, was widely circulated in cyberspace, and reported in several newspapers the day after he died on July 24.)

The political ghost story peddled: A patriot whose article didn’t see print in 2006 has reached out from the great beyond to expose the 2004 electoral fraud committed by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Alcuaz’s ghost extricated it somewhere and put it on top of the editor’s pile of letters.

Why now? The editor hinted at a reason: allegations of fraud have been given new life with several police officers recently claiming to have been part of the conspiracy.

This kind of ghost story is really not unexpected since the frenzied group-think that Arroyo didn’t win in that contest is based on melodrama, irrationality and phantasms. A routine fact checking would have spared us this ghost story.

Alcuaz’s is certainly not some kind of lost document imparting wisdom and discovered in some cave. Alcuaz was an Internet pioneer, and he widely circulated his piece in cyberspace, entitled “Hello Garci, Election Fraud, and Namfrel Blinked” in 2006, at the same time when he tried to have it published in this paper.

Second, Alcuaz certainly preferred his analysis to be read while he was alive, and he had the venues: a weekly column in BusinessWorld, and an occasional one in the Business Section of this paper. If Alcuaz still believed in his 2006 election analysis, he would have discussed them in those columns. He didn’t.

The ghost here is really Alcuaz’s analysis. It is old, discredited stuff, the apparition of the very erroneous analysis of an eccentric pseudo-academic, who announced right just a few weeks after the 2004 elections that Fernando Poe Jr. won, based on his calculations using the National Movement for Free Elections reports.

Alcuaz merely applied that flawed framework to link the Virgilio Garcillano tapes to the election results in six provinces in Mindanao. His big error was that he took the partial results reported by Namfrel for a province as an unchanging trend for the total. If the official count deviated from the Namfrel trend, voila, the deviations represented dagdag-bawas votes.

For instance, for Sulu, Alcuaz pointed out, the Namfrel quick count showed 32 percent for Arroyo, 61 percent for Poe. But the official count put Arroyo’s votes at 53 percent of the total, while FPJ’s votes made up 41 percent. Therefore, Arroyo cheated.

Alcuaz’s analysis is so patently wrong, the result of a total misunderstanding of the nature of the Namfrel reports. First, the Namfrel’s “quick counts” were almost by definition incomplete and cannot be taken as representing an unchangeable trend. For instance, its Sulu numbers represented only 51 percent of the actual votes counted. The Namfrel numbers also were arrived not through a scientific sampling method which sound polls use and therefore cannot be used for extrapolating the total result for a province.

Secondly, if Alcuaz’s method is correct, it must be applied not only to Arroyo’s votes but to FPJ’s as well. Thus using Alcuaz’s method, it was FPJ who cheated in Quezon (Namfrel’s 316,055 to the official 366,000), Rizal (289,130 to 324,730), Laguna (412,200 to 477, 600), and many other big provinces. The “pro-FPJ” discrepancies in these vote-rich provinces were much bigger than those favoring Arroyo in the six relatively small provinces Alcuaz pointed to as his proof of 2004 fraud.

At the end of the day, Namfrel’s national results—39.4 percent Arroyo, 36.9 percent FPJ—validated the official count of 40 percent Arroyo, 36.5 percent FPJ. Another validation was the Social Weather Stations’ exit poll which had Arroyo getting 40.8 percent and FPJ, 32.3 percent.

These are hard data, not phantasmal, frenetic claims.

But these are the trees, and we miss the forest. Within the theory of democracy, the real fraud in the 2004 elections was the attempt itself of a celebrity, FPJ, to be president, which had never been done in any nation before (Ronald Reagan was governor for eight years before he run for the US presidency). Deliberative, representative democracy is based on the assumption that citizens are rational beings who elect persons who, after careful deliberation, they think have the qualifications and character to represent them. A process for this—practiced in functioning democracies—would have candidates engage in public debate.

Worried that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if Arroyo won, former President Joseph Estrada exploited the postmodern phenomenon of celebrity politics created by movies to subvert democracy by deploying FPJ, for whom people would vote not for his qualifications, but because they confused fantasy with reality, and hallucinated that they were voting for “Panday” even if the ballots would be for Ronald Poe. FPJ could have rejected this conspiracy to cheat democracy by engaging his rivals in a debate, and to be truthful to voters to say that he was not “Panday” but simply a loyal friend who just wanted to see his buddy released from prison. He didn’t.

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer