REPORT ON THE PLEBISCITE
April 5, 1947
The struggle to preserve the purity of the franchise is a never-ending one. At the times and places described below, the forces of genuine democracy seem to have lost the battle to forces of arrogance and corruption. There can be only one answer. Let those who truly believe in honest elections resolve with increased firmness and determination to fight for them, in spite of temporary defeat and discouragement.—The Editor.
Report from Iloilo
March 12, 1947
To An American Friend:
The plebiscite is over. For the next 28 years you will have equal rights with us in the development of our country. As the saying is, “The people have spoken.” In this case, however, it seems to me that this means, “The people who compose the Board of Election Inspectors have spoken for the people who did not vote.” Let me explain.
I voted at eight o’clock in the morning, I returned to the precinct at six in the afternoon and, as I looked through the rails, it seemed to me that something funny was going on. I looked more intently. One member would call out the number of an elector, the chairman would glance at a piece of paper and call out a ballot number which the others hastened to enter in their books. Then the chairman would enter the number in his book and proceed to sign in the column where the elector signs upon being given a ballot. Then they all made a check-up and naturally found their books in perfect accord. The chairman brought out the election forms while one of the inspectors poured ink on the ink pad and put all the fingers of his right hand on the pad. At that point, one inspector moved between the chairman and me, but I moved too so I could see what was going on.
As the chairman checked over his book, the inspector with the inked fingers would say, “There doesn’t seem to be a signature there.”
The chairman would ask, “Where?” The inspector would show “where” by placing one of his inked fingers in the space for the thumb mark.
I watched this little performance for some time, till finally one of the inspectors whispered something to the policeman on duty. The policeman came over and told me to move away.
“Why?” one of my companions asked.
“It is the order,” he said.
“Who gave the order?” my companion insisted.
“The mayor,” replied the policeman.
“This is supposed to be public. The mayor cannot give an order like that,” objected my companion.
“It was the inspector’s order,” I explained to my companion, loud enough for the policeman to hear. “He spoke to the policeman before he came to order us away.”
The policeman left us.
After the “fingerprinting process” was completed, the chairman filled out the election forms:
Number of voters who voted—103
Number of voters challenged—None
Number of watchers—None
Time casting of votes began—Eight o’. . .
“No,” said one inspector, “put it seven o’clock.”
The chairman looked at me (I had waited from a quarter to seven until eight to cast the first vote—all the inspectors did not arrive on time) and compromised on “Seven thirty.”
They then proceeded with the canvassing. Result: 73 to 30 in favor of parity—Precinct No. 71, City of Iloilo.
At the door was posted a list of the voters in the precinct. I examined it carefully. I personally knew many on that list. Some of them are in the United States, some are in other parts of the Philippines. Perhaps some are in another life.
At college this morning, three friends of mine said that they had voted, “No.” But the board of electors reported no “No” votes were registered (Precinct No. 20, City of Iloilo).
Dear American friend, I have written you this because you might find your way to our shores during the next 28 years,—to help develop our country, to help build a better Philippines. Should you sense a feeling of resentment on the part of some Filipinos over your presence, do not take it for ingratitude. Try to understand with characteristic American broadmindedness. Remember the story I have told you to this letter.
And if within your lifetime it again becomes necessary to defend democracy with blood and powder, remember how democratic processes are being “reprocessed” after this latest war and cease to wonder why democracy has to be defended on the average of once every 25 years. Our next defense may not be against a foreign power!
SAMUEL R. CAPISTRANO
Central Philippine College,
City of Iloilo
From Eusebio D. Garcia (Iloilo City) comes this story:
“A friend of mine went to cast his vote at five o’clock in the afternoon of March 11. To his surprise, he was told that he had already voted! A group of about 18 other voters followed him. They were asked to go home because their ballots were already in the ballot boxes!”
And from Matnog, Sorsogon, comes this story from a reader who asks that his true name be withheld:
“Right under the very nose of the MP guard at one of the precincts of this town, the municipal; mayor wearing a 45 caliber sidearm took the unused ballots from the chairman of the board of inspectors and filled them out with ‘Yes.’ Later he announced that any inspector who disapproved of his act could leave. Being an inspector who could not participate in such action, I left the precinct, but lingered long enough to see my co-inspectors sign the names of voters who never appeared and place thumbmarks opposite their names. Many are the people in this town who now openly express their lack of faith in the holding of elections.”
* * *
Requesting information on how to get an official investigation of the anomaly, a reader in San Juan, Abra, describes the balloting procedure in his precinct (No. 1) as follows: “The board actually counted the number of ballots in the valid ballot box, but in recording them all were credited to the affirmative side. Only about 30 percent of the qualified voters in this town came to the polls but the returns show that 80 percent (!) voted, and all in the affirmative, including myself when I actually voted ‘NO’ in capital letters. A brief examination of the Register of Voters now in the custody of the Municipal Treasurer reveals even to one without training in fingerprinting and handwriting analysis that some of the signatures are forged and the fingerprints are not all righthand thumb marks at all. All fingers from the little to the index are represented.”
“Headed for the Dogs”
That the frauds described above were not limited to one or two sections of the country, is shown by a letter from Ricardo Millare of Aloran, Misamis Occidental. “I voted ‘yes’ in the plebiscite,” writes Mr. Millare, “but I was shocked at the tampering with the sanctity of the ballot.” In Aloran, he continues, ‘they allowed the antis to vote, but the pros not only voted but also cast votes for those who did not appear at the balloting booth. When the voting was over, the inspectors, following pre-arranged tactics, nonchalantly sealed the ballot boxes, counted the number of those who supposedly cast their votes, and listed them all as ‘yes,’ zero. . .
“I do say that if the administration permits such immoral, dirty and scandalous practices to continue, this country is really headed for the dogs.”