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Who’s afraid of Bongbong?

Even if nothing comes of it, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has an obligation to pursue his electoral protest against Vice President-elect Leni Robredo. And Marcos’ obligation is to all of the millions who voted for him and who cannot accept the official result of one of the most hotly contested elections this country has ever seen.

After all, Robredo and her followers have always demanded that Marcos prove his allegations of electoral fraud allegedly perpetrated by the Commission on Elections and its Venezuela-based election systems provider, Smartmatic. Filing a post-proclamation protest, which Marcos promised to do by the end of this month, is the first step towards doing exactly that.

And so I must disagree with election lawyer Romulo “Mac” Macalintal, Robredo’s counsel, when he said that Marcos should reconsider his plan to file a protest simply because it is too expensive and may be nullified if Marcos runs for some office or another in the 2019 midterm election.

The more prudent statement from Robredo and her camp, if they are truly convinced of her victory, is to make the proper—and properly hypocritical—noises about letting Marcos exercise his right to a protest.

It makes no sense for Macalintal to advise Marcos on what to do, just as it has always bothered Robredo’s critics that she had herself photographed while supposedly waiting for a bus in Makati where no bus ever stops. As Marcos lawyer George Garcia said, with no small amount of sarcasm: “Why is he so concerned about us, when he’s not doing the filing?”

For me, regardless of how Marcos’ protest is decided by the appropriate bodies in the proper forums, if it will lead to a rethinking of how the past three automated elections have been run by the Comelec-Smartmatic combine, that would already be a victory. And if Robredo’s win is overturned, that would just be a bonus.

For Robredo, an exoneration of Comelec-Smartmatic will remove the huge cloud of doubt that remains over her head to this day, the one that put an asterisk beside her still-unexplained victory, achieved simply because she was the candidate of the only group well-funded enough to pull off cheating at such a massive scale: the Aquino administration.

Let Bongbong pursue his protest. If Leni really won, she will have nothing to fear.

* * *

Change may really be coming. And according to PLDT head honcho Manny Pangilinan, it’s already arrived in the Ecoland area of Davao City, where subscribers of Smart are now experiencing unheard-of 101 mbps mobile internet download speeds.

That’s not a misprint. In my news feed yesterday, I saw the tweet from MVP announcing the deployment of the 700 mhz broadband spectrum, the “golden band” that was the subject of much corporate hand-wringing in the telco industry before diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. decided to sell it in equal portions to established players PLDT/Smart and Globe Telecom.

It’s no accident that the band was first used in Davao City, whose most prominent resident has just been elected president. According to incoming Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez, this was just what President-elect Rodrigo Duterte wanted from the telcos— faster internet speed for the long-suffering Filipino customer.

Dominguez told media recently that the National Telecommunications Commission has acted quickly on the campaign promise of Duterte for better telecommunications services. “This is [Duterte’s] idea, better service, less dropped calls, faster internet,” Dominguez said.

Duterte, according to Dominguez, met with representatives of Smart and Globe soon after the May 9 elections to tell them to improve their service or suffer the consequences. This included his public threat to open up the industry to new, foreign players if the telco giants do not shape up.

“They explained to us the difficulties that they were having, but also they explained to us the plans for their expansion,” Dominguez said. “We committed to support their improvement in service as best we can.”

Then San Miguel decided to give up the 700 mhz frequency for P70 billion, in a “joint-use” deal that included provisions, stipulated by the NTC, to immediately improve mobile internet speed within the year and to provide faster service to 90 percent of the country within three years. The stage was set, finally, to bring this country of avid internet users into the 21st century, speed-wise.

The neat thing, according to reports, is that with great speed doesn’t necessarily come higher cost—or so the telcos promise. Because the telcos only need to purchase radio equipment and install these on existing cell sites to use the 700 mhz frequency, there will only be minimal capital expense on the part of Smart and Globe; that means consumers will start enjoying faster speeds not only in a shorter time but also at a lower cost.

This is the sort of change that we need, really. And now that we know it can be done, let’s see if the telcos will deliver completely on their part of the bargain.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Who’s afraid of Bongbong? , Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos
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