Next Monday, national election day, will probably see a large turnout of the country's 42.8 million voters. There is only one problem: that number could actually be 43.5 million, a difference of 700,000.
The conflicting figures are given by two government officials. The agency that could settle the matter is the Commission on Elections (Comelec) - but there is a hitch: the differing numbers come from the body itself. Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos gives the lower figure. One of his commissioners disagrees.
It speaks volumes, so close to election day, that Comelec cannot even make up its mind how many voters there are. Once a highly respected, efficient body, it has become a laughing stock.
Although it has had six years to prepare for May 10, the agency's efforts have borne nothing but toxic fruit: a tainted and suspect voter list and a computerisation programme that has failed so abysmally, the elections will use the same primitive procedures as before. Election-related violence has already killed 87 people in five months. Candidates and voters have complained that they cannot find their names on Comelec-printed lists. The agency accepted the unbalanced Eddie Gil as a presidential candidate, then wasted time and money trying to get him disqualified.
In its computerisation debacle, the commission gave 800 million pesos (HK$112 million) to a consortium that had financial statements going back 11 days (yes, days). By the time an indignant Supreme Court quashed the deal as irregular, the 'consortium' had disappeared with the money.
Comelec seems to have taken particular care to study every possible mistake it could make - and then gone ahead and committed them all. The main reason is that it has become heavily politicised. Fidel Ramos started the ball rolling when he was president, appointing two cronies as commissioners. His successor, Joseph Estrada, appointed an official who splurged millions on an abortive modernisation plan. Now, the commission plans to spend 300 million pesos to set up a 'quick count' that is already being done for free by a citizens' group.
Mr Abalos himself is a political crony of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and it is significant that his commission has never issued a decision unfavourable to the administration.
What is tragic is that 12 years ago, Comelec handled polls so faultlessly that it sent its officials abroad to teach other countries how to do it. Now, officials should be sent abroad for refresher courses. Better yet, they should never return.
Bombarded by criticism, Mr Abalos insists that 'we're only human'. The lesson is clear. Next time, get better humans.