The Philippine Star – A tale of two countries

By Domini M. Torrevillas | The Philippine Star

“In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.”

Although the Greek historian and general Thucydides uttered these words 2,500 years ago, he may as well have been talking about the recently concluded United States elections.

Before the elections actually took place, it was announced that almost 70 percent of Americans – regardless of political color or affiliation – trusted the integrity of their polling process.

Not surprisingly, the poll firm Morning Consult recently revealed that Republicans are now overwhelmingly distrustful of the results of the 2020 US elections, with only 3 in 10 Republicans feeling the election was free and fair, and only 34 percent having some level of trust in the election system. Needless to say, this sharp decline in trust sits in stark contrast to the perceptions Democrats have of election results: 78 percent of Biden-Harris supporters expressed confidence that the results were credible and true.

For many people – especially Filipinos – these findings may be a case of stating the obvious. However, this underscores the reality that partisanship has been steadily eroding trust in US elections since 2008 (at least). In the last four presidential elections, in fact, the majority of Americans have accepted results only when their party wins – which is a dangerous path for a democracy.

Sore losers are the bane of elections all over the world, and sadly, the Philippines has often exemplified this fact. Indeed, there is a popular trope that goes “sa Pilipinas, walang natatalo sa eleksyon. May panalo, at may dinaya (In the Philippines, no one loses an election. One candidate wins, and the other candidate was cheated).”

Contrary to anecdotal evidence, however, the actual numbers do not support this dictum. In truth, Filipinos have faith in our electoral system: as per Pulse Asia’s poll after the 2016 and 2019 elections, the overwhelming majority of voters – 74 percent in 2016 and 80 percent in 2019 – trust in election results. And with each new election, fewer and fewer protest cases are filed while credibility and transparency rise.

I credit this to the robust electronic and physical audit trails that the automated election system in the Philippines provides. Since 2010, authorities have had all the necessary evidence to pick apart fraud claims and make evidence-based adjudications. This level of transparency is a stepping stone upon which credibility can be built.

If technology has been crucial in shoring up election credibility in the Philippines, it can very well prove crucial if the US is to restore trust in its elections. In fact, one of the brightest spots in this year’s US elections could be the new system used in Los Angeles. The county unveiled an entirely new voting system that provided transparency and accuracy for election officials, and convenience and accessibility for voters. Called the Voting Solutions for All People (VSAP), the system used touchscreen ballot marking devices that printed paper ballots. It allowed voters to verify their selections on the touchscreen and on paper before casting their ballot. It also allowed voters to use any one of 13 languages, including Filipino. This could very well bring increased trust in election results across the political spectrum.

Given that the dust hasn’t officially settled yet, the United States still faces a level of uncertainty. The Trump camp should be given the opportunity to voice out its case, and the evidence – assuming that they will present any at all – should be carefully weighed and considered. Sadly, the time for a gracious concession of defeat has long passed, and the entire world will have to wait until Dec. 14 for the US Electoral College to finally put this issue to rest.

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On another front, one of the first questions Rep. Christian Unabia is asked is whether his family is starting a political dynasty, the question asked in view of his father, Peter Unabia who, after serving as a congressman for two terms, urged his son Christian to run for the post he vacated, and have another son run for town mayor. The question is not Greek to Christian, 32 years old and representing the 1st District of Misamis Oriental.

“A political dynasty can be good or not good depending on the performance of the family members elected,” he told me. “I believe that we are doing our best in the service of the people of the 1st District of Misamis Oriental. It is important to ensure that the positive developments and the public programs which were brought for the people of the district while my father was representative in Congress are continued to attain sustainable progress and support our local communities in reaching their maximum development potential.”

Entering politics was farthest from Christian’s mind. He took up Information Technology-Web Design at the Informatics Computer Institute in Cagayan de Oro City. “I took the course as I was really interested in how we can maximize the benefits of information technology in terms of making effective communications and integrating technology in our day-to-day activities, whether in the personal, business, professional and public aspects of our lives.”

While he and his brothers were still studying, their parents involved them in the family’s lechon manok business. It was his uncle, his father’s brother, who started the business, called Anakciano, in Cagayan de Oro. But his father expanded the enterprise to include poultry raising, cattle, hogs, dairy and agriculture feeds. “This was primarily because my father is really an agriculture enthusiast.”

After graduation, Christian joined the family business, helping his mother Erlinda, the company’s financial officer, in the logistics aspect and overseeing the supply side. He became president of Anakciano, Incorporated in 2010 when his father ran for Congress, and now that he himself is in Congress, his brother Joshua is the current president of ACI and Triun Agri-Business Logistics Corp. His other brother, Aaron Paul, is mayor of Balingoan, a fifth class municipality in Mis. Or.

ACI helps more than 15 families from different municipalities by supplying them with day-old chicks and feeds, and buying them back. It has its own hatchery to make sure the chicks being distributed are of good quality.

The business-minded older Unabia, who is now vice mayor of Gingoog City, opened his own business, Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro, which buys Anakciano chickens. There are close to 500 Sr. Pedro roasted chicken branches in the country. One could say chicken built the Unabia fortune.

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