Constituent assembly when the people and politicians are about to start the electoral ball rolling? Disbelief and rage naturally became the reaction most recorded in the last few days.
Taking a step back, one discerns two contradictory conclusions from this act of political brinkmanship. First, taken at face value, it is a desperate political move to avert an impending situation of no-presidentiable for the GMA administration. Second, deepening the scrutiny, it may serve the purpose of distracting the public from possible shenanigans in the on-going election preparations, including the automation of the electoral process.
The first conclusion is borne of the failure so far of the “merged” Lakas-Kampi-CMD to produce a winnable presidential standard-bearer, including the invitation to Vice-President Noli de Castro. Reportedly, even those who may have entertained becoming the open or silent endorsee of president Macapagal-Arroyo backed out from the arrangement.
The second conclusion comes from the present critical stage of the automation process wherein the Comelec is about to announce a winning bidder for the election automation project. From most indications, Smartmatic-TIM will be awarded the contract, as it passed the critical 26 criteria set by the Comelec in the post-qualification process.
However, lingering questions haunt it: about its capacity to undertake the project, its notably low bid of 7.2 billion philippine pesos, its convoluted corporate structure and relations, and the background of its local partners. These questions naturally led to more political questions–can Smartmatic-TIM withstand the pressures, blandishments, and black schemes that will surely shower it if ever becomes the implementor of the automated elections project. In the end, time will tell if it fulfills the expectations.
Obviously, planning for the 2010 elections contradicts a concerted initiative for charter change that may set aside the elections. However, it is the norm of behavior in the palace where scenarios are ceaselessly played out and tested in the field. The opposition may well to have its own scenarios and options ready. The one lesson for the longevity of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime is its capacity to imagine every scenario, even how improbable it is, and prepare responses, even how far from constitutional and legal limits these may be.
Cha-cha in the day of the vote is normal in Malacañang’s working day.