The Filipino election count that didn't add up
Manila — Corazon Aquino has taken over leadership of the Philippines without really knowing how many votes she received in the Feb. 7 election. But by early next week, she plans to ask the National Assembly to reverse its Feb. 15 proclamation of Ferdinand Marcos as victor and name her the winner instead.
This unusual official endorsement would come after a combination of military revolt, withdrawal of United States support, and massive nonviolent civil disobedience forced Mr. Marcos into exile Feb. 25, allowing Mrs. Aquino to take power with a revolutionary government.
The Marcos exodus has led many legislative members of his party -- the New Society Movement, which has a parliamentary majority -- to promise Aquino that they will vote for her proclamation.
To have her proclaimed winner with the appearance of legality, Aquino's supporters have had to accumulate enough reports of election manipulation by Marcos allies to discredit the official tally.
That tally, as counted by the Assembly, showed Marcos winning with a vote count of 10,807,197 (54 percent) against Aquino's 9,291,716 votes (46 percent).
But is there enough evidence to show the election count a sham and to prove that Aquino actually won?
Probably no one will ever be able to provide enough proof to convince die-hard Marcos backers. But Aquino's backers cite statistical anomalies and extrapolation of a number of cases of voting fraud to make a convincing case that she won. Such evidence -- coming from 86,000 voting precincts across 7,000 islands -- has taken more than two weeks to be pulled together by the group given the most credibility in watching over the vote counting: the volunteer National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), which was authorized by the official Commission on Elections (Comelec).
While Namfrel has been collating evidence, Marcos's party has been accused of orchestrating a fraudulent election by the Reagan White House (after initial fence-sitting), the Philippine Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops, two teams of foreign observers, and Marcos's own defense minister, Juan Ponce Enrile (who switched allegiance to Aquino Feb. 27).
Until the day he left his country, Marcos claimed he won the election and accused his opponent and Namfrel of election abuses. Any fraud would not change the election result, he said -- although he claimed that communist insurgents prevented many people from voting, especially in areas where he lost. But, says Francisco Fatad, columnist for Manila's Business Day newspaper, ``The ruling party had everything in terms of logistics -- organization, money, media, guns. The opposition had nothing except its enthusiasm, inexperience, and wits.''
Namfrel, in a Feb. 24 statement, contends that Aquino won, based on vote counts collected with the help of more than 500,000 volunteers who were allowed in voting precincts. The tally sheets gathered were certified by the government Board of Election Inspectors.
Namfrel's tabulations were based on only about 70 percent of the voter turnout, since Namfrel was unable to organize or was prevented from performing its watchdog function in the rest of the election areas. Its tally showed Aquino winning with 52.6 percent of the vote, against 47.4 percent for Marcos.
Namfrel says the actual percentage for Aquino was probably higher, given all the ``questionable'' results. Aquino probably would have won by 2.5 million votes (out of 20.1 million who voted), said Namfrel chairman Jose Concepcion Jr.
The volunteer group, which is backed by some 250 private organizations and has spent some $300,000 in its watchdog role, found that about 20 percent of the official vote count is questionable -- enough to affect the outcome.
``Marcos stole the vote by manipulation in key areas,'' said Namfrel general secretary Christian Monsod.
The most damaging evidence cited by Namfrel is shown in the official Assembly figures: In 10 cities and provinces that had the highest citizen voter turnout (about 90 percent, mainly in areas controlled by the ruling party), Marcos won.
In fact, in the province of Tawi Tawi, voter turnout was an impossible 103 percent of registered voters (with Marcos taking 85 percent of the vote).
In eight out ot ten cities and provinces with the lowest voter turnout (22 percent to 64 percent), Aquino won. This clearly shows a pattern of manipulation to prevent voters in opposition areas from casting their ballots, Namfrel contends.
In at least one town, Namfrel found that Aquino received zero votes -- a statistical impossibility. In five areas with some of the highest turnouts, Aquino got 5 percent to less than 1 percent of the tally (the latter being in Marcos' home province of Ilocos Norte).
The overall official turnout was 80 percent, compared to a higher 89 percent turnout for the less important 1984 legislative elections that were boycotted by a number of opposition groups.
This shows that many voters were not able to vote in this election, says Mr. Concepcion. By conservative estimate, 3.2 million voters were disenfranchised, assuming that there should have been at least an 89 percent turnout. Of 26.1 million registered voters, 20.1 million voted, according to the Assembly count.
Then there are the pro-Marcos areas with highly inflated tallies -- tallies that came in several days late.
``The ruling party was waiting to see just how much inflation was needed to put Marcos ahead,'' said Mr. Monsod. In Isabela province, for instance, the Assembly tally was 95 percent for Marcos. Namfrel gave Marcos a more reasonable 69 percent.