Computerized elections cannot be guarded; Thatcher and Filipinos Created on April 16, 2013, 3:45 am Posted by nup

There are two issues in the coming elections. The first is about automation: whether using Smartmatic PCOS is acceptable. Would  it reflect the true vote of Filipinos come May 10, 2013?

The second is about results. If the Comelec is intent in pursuing dubious elections then we should be ready. It is clear that the Smartmatic PCOS will facilitate the election of candidates that the incumbent government wants elected by hook or by crook. That will consolidate its hold on the legislative branch of government. 

Our time is being consumed by discussing safeguards even if all indications show it cannot be done. Other more sophisticated countries have simply dismissed computer elections as a contradiction. Computerization requires specialist knowledge. That contradicts the public nature of election in which every step must be understood by all. Is it so hard to understand that what happened in 2010 will happen again in 2013 not even with the best of “safeguards”? In computerized elections there are no such things as “adequate” safeguards. (Have we not heard about Wikileaks or the battle on computer security?)

That brings us to the second issue: do we want the same people elected, as one group calls it political dynasties lording over the country through machinated elections? We need to restructure the country so we can reform both the elections and the political system by demanding constitutional reform. We should organize for that.

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When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, the Filipino community in the UK was in crisis. Two campaigns defending their rights as immigrants were launched at the time. Immigration control was central to the Thatcher platform for reform. Filipinos were barely 30,000 while the misnamed Asians (Indians and Pakistanis) were millions. The Filipino community was chosen as poster for the policy because it was weak, unorganized and would not be defended by their government. The UK government could not do that with the “Asians.”

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The two campaigns were The Resident Domestics Campaign and the  Immigration Widows Campaign.  

The Resident Domestics Campaign was about Filipino women who were accused of deception in their work and permit applications.  And what was the deception? Agents instructed them not to reveal their true status because their application would not be approved. Immigration authorities found the loophole and began deporting them.

This made news as Margaret Thatcher’s campaign platform went into high gear. In a 1978 interview she said there was a committee which looked into immigration and said that if the UK went on as it did by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here.

“Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture and, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.

So, if you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples’ fears on numbers. Now, the key to this was not what Keith Speed said just a couple of weeks ago. It really was what Willie Whitelaw said at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton, where he said we must hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration because at the moment it is about between 45,000 and 50,000 people coming in a year.”

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There were horror stories about Filipino women being bundled up in the middle night and summarily brought on their flight back to Manila. A campaign was needed for Filipinos, that would work together with sympathetic MPs, trade unions and NGOs to make the community and their problems visible.

In a huge meeting held in the Filipino Chaplaincy in Kensington, my late husband, Alberto A. Pedrosa was elected chairman of the Pagkakaisa ng Samahang Pilipino that would spearhead the campaign. It meant going from hospitals and hotels, (I counted more than 200) to make Filipinos aware of the problem. As my husband would say in the meetings, “there are groups who want to help but where are the Filipinos?” In time we were able to convince Filipinos to join a protest with trade unions’ support marching in the streets of London. The High Court later ruled that immigrants could not be removed without a court order.

Margaret Thatcher may have been a great leader to the British but not to Filipino migrant workers in those years in the UK.

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While Filipino opposition against martial law in the US was focused on Marcos’ dictatorship, we worked on politicizing the workers to be aware of their political rights as immigrants in London and as citizens of the Philippines.

Filipinos in London were generally apolitical. They could not relate their economic exile with bad governance in Manila. It was a real education for me, too. Like most educated middle class Filipinos we were aware of the great divide between the rich and the poor in our society. We accepted it as we did the landscape. Middle class interests depended on the prosperity and power of the oligarchs and plutocrats. So the rhetoric of protesters and oppositionists adopted against Marcos’s martial law government borrowed from Marxist concepts. This was true of the opposition in Manila as it was in London.

In the campaign for the reconciliation of families, Pagkakaisa ng Samahang Pilipino, fought for gender equality. Under UK immigration law men could petition for their wives but women could not.

Pagkakaisa rallied Filipinos to question the UK immigration law. We were able to bring the case of Ruben Lapinid who was being denied entry on his wife’s petition all the way up to the Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg in November 1982. We won the case and from then on Filipino women could petition for their husbands. I mention this case because it was extraordinary how the women responded to the victory.

I went with them to Strasbourg when the women were summoned by the court to be present at the hearing. They were thrilled about sitting in court pleading their case with distinguished-looking European judges dressed in their black robes. To the Filipino women workers it was an unforgettable lesson on the rule of law and their power to fight for their rights.

They wrote home about their experience in Strasbourg. When 1986 came, they launched a signature campaign to petition the new government to assign my husband as the Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Thousands of signatures were gathered and they were able to speak to Cardinal Sin who visited London after the February Revolution.



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