MANILA, Philippines - Leftist groups on Wednesday warned of an alleged plot to keep President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in power through Oplan Rafael or Retain Arroyo through Failure of Elections.
According to party-list group Bayan Muna, there is a supposed concerted plan to extend Mrs. Arroyo in power, part of which is a failure of election and failure in automation.
The party claimed that the glitch involving the compact flash cards of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines is part of the plot.
Nacionalista Party (NP) guest candidate Satur Ocampo and Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares on Wednesday called on all opposition parties and candidates to unite against the alleged plot.
They also pushed for a parallel manual count as a way to prevent massive fraud in next week's polls.
"There is no longer denying the signs that the Macapagal-Arroyo is orchestrating moves to ensure that the May 10 polls will fail. First, there's Norberto Gonzales who continues to spout warnings on failure of elections, then there's the Comelec and the unresolved problems connected to automation. With the polls just around the corner, it's imperative that all opposition forces cross party lines and unite behind the common goal of thwarting the Arroyo government's plans to sabotage the polls," Ocampo said.
United vs common enemy
"The last two months have seen the standard-bearers and candidates of the major opposition parties flinging mud at each other and discrediting each others' records. It's about time that the mudslinging stops and for everyone to unite against a common enemy: the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and its schemes to throw a monkey wrench in the polls and if possible extend its stay in power indefinitely. For all of Pres. Arroyo's declarations that she will step down in June, signs are rife that she isn't going to leave the presidency so easily," he said.
Ocampo urged opposition parties to unite against all attempts to sabotage the polls. "We owe this to the Filipino people, and it is our duty as members of the opposition. We cannot have a repeat of the 2004 elections that was rigged to the hilt, and we cannot allow Macapagal-Arroyo to remain president by default," he said.
In the meantime, Ocampo also said it was time for the Comelec to admit that it is "necessary for a parallel manual count to take place alongside automation."
"There's a million and one possibilities that automation might fail, either due to technical problems or direct and underhanded tactics of the Macapagal-Arroyo electoral fraud machinery. The Comelec should prepare for a parallel manual count as immediate insurance against failure of automation and as a measure against fraud," he said.
Palace: Don't blame us
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo, however, urged critics not to blame the Palace for the technical glitches in the poll automation process.
"Those dragging Malacañang into problems with the vote-counting machines. They should remember that the Comelec is a constitutional body wherein Malacañang cannot interfere and does not interfere in its decisions and operations. Those critics should look at their books and study the Constitution before casting their blame on the Palace. We have been consistent in our support and advocacy for fair, free, orderly and credible elections," Saludo said.
Bayan: What's the Palace up to?
Meanwhile, Renato Reyes, a leader of the leftist political alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), claimed that the call of President Arroyo's election lawyer, Romulo Macalintal, to postpone the polls by 15 days was a dangerous move that could lead to Arroyo staying in power before her term on June 30.
“The proposed postponement begs the question, what is the Palace really up to? Are they now testing the waters for failed polls that will help keep Mrs. Arroyo is power? Are they setting the stage for a holdover?” Reyes Jr. said.
“The Comelec, Smartmatic and the Arroyo regime have put the people between a rock and a hard-place. We are faced with seemingly insurmountable technical and logistical problems in the automated polls this late in the day. Comelec says it can push through with the polls even it can lead to failure. Macalintal says we shouldn’t push through to avoid failure,” Reyes said.
Bayan believes that the "confluence of events will most likely only benefit the incumbent in Malacañang."
“Whichever way you go, given the unfolding events of a failed automated system, the only beneficiary of this chaos is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. If the polls fail, or if the polls are not credible, she can take advantage of the chaos to strengthen her hold on power and gain leverage over her rivals,” Reyes said.
Bayan said it was concerned with the overkill deployment of more than 2,300 soldiers in Metro Manila to so-called election hotspots.
“Are the soldiers there to guard the hotspots, or are they on stand-by to thwart any protest action in the event that there is election fraud and failure? Are the soldiers there to pre-empt any people power against Gloria’s hold-over?” Reyes asked.
Bayan also claimed that the Palace’s impending appointment of the next Chief Justice, even before May 17, also raises concerns coming at a time when a potential constitutional crisis looms with the failure or postponement of the elections.
“The appointment of the next chief justice, at this crucial time, may also be part of the plans of the regime to legitimize whatever situation that may arise from the failed polls,” Reyes said.
“Whether or not the polls push though on May 10, the Comelec, Smartmatic and the Arroyo government must be held accountable for doing a terrible job at presiding over the country’s first automated polls. We said it before, there can be no credible polls until Arroyo is Malacañang, while the Comelec-Smartmatic tandem is laying the basis for failed automation,” Reyes said.