EDITOR’S NOTE: Full Statement of Neri Colmenares for all those whose hopes were raised and dashed, but is up again and asking what’s next
But these are not ordinary times. And these are not normal elections.
Even before and during the campaign period, we saw how the PNP and AFP perpetrated massive human righs abuses and brazenly conducted illegal partisan activities against Makabayan candidates at the national and local levels. With the entire Mindanao still under martial law and known progressive bailiwicks in Bicol, Eastern and Western Visayas, the Duterte government unleashed intensified, tokhang-style police and military operations, resulting in at least two massacres and a state of terror in the communities. On election day itself, the PNP were caught red-handed distributing black propaganda against us in various polling centers in Metro Manila.
We saw how government resources, funds and facilities were used to promote pro-Administration candidates, especially those favored by the President. We saw how the rules – from postering and other campaign activities to widespread vote buying – were being flouted with impunity up to election day, and the COMELEC seemingly blind or helpless about it.
We saw how the President, using his presidential platform, led the vilification of the opposition and progressive candidates, dishing out insults and lies at every opportunity. This year, honesty as a qualification for public office was openly thrown out the window. And vote buying was justified by the highest official of the land.
We saw how the President and his allies threatened and intimidated local politicians into supporting their candidates and denying the opposition and progressive candidates the opportunity to campaign at the grassroots. I have never seen so fearful a set of local politicians than now.
We saw how candidates were already campaigning, spending hundreds of millions on TV and radio advertisments prior to campaign period. But that was nothing compared to the deluge of ads during the campaign period, skirting whatever limits we’re supposed to have on campaign spending and advertising.
On election day itself, there were unprecedented failures in the vote counting machines and SD cards used to run those machines. In the evening, we saw how the transmitted results were withheld from the public for seven hours on some flimsy technical glitch that had never happened in the past three automated elections. Many of us slept and woke up to the TV screen showing 12 winning senators, not knowing what happened.
During my three terms in Congress, I filed resolutions to investigate election fraud in the automated election even if I won in these elections. This is based on my principled belief that the Smartmatic automated election system (AES) is not transparent and its safeguards withheld.
How can I concede to a rotten electoral exercise that has basically deceived, bribed, intimidated and manipulated our people into electing the worst kinds of leaders imaginable? I cannot.
It would have been easy to concede had I lost in a fair and honest elections. But this year’s elections were hardly fair or honest. Besides, this is no longer about me but about giving our people a fair chance to exercise their constitutional right to suffrage.
I may have lost the count. But I will not be defeated. We will continue to fight for socio-economic, political and electoral reforms until democracy, national sovereignty and social justice reign. #TuloyAngLaban!
KOALISYONG MAKABAYAN senatorial candidate