Monday, May 10, 2010


I have many confessions to make today. The first and worst is the fact that I was unable to vote in this so-called historic elections. Unforgivable. Unjustifiable. But hear me out: I actually spent hours on the internet last night, resolving my undecidedness, reading reports and blogs, studying the Election 2010 guide from the link provided in Manuel L. Quezon III's blog, discussing in forums, even culminating in Loyola Press’ 3-minute retreat to clear my mind. By 2am, I was filling out the sample ballot, stalling frustratingly at the senate part, for I only had 5 real preferences (none of them from showbusiness). But I did it. I have decided, and I felt good!
I set my alarm for 5am, bent on being at my precinct by 6am. I was there at 6:30am, and was greeted by throngs of people, lines of people with brown envelopes with three digit-numbers and stubs. I found my clustered precinct number (211), walked near-sideways between two school buildings (aside: that space is an accident for school kids waiting to happen), went up the second floor, chatted with some neighbours, and started riffling through the voters’ list over other people’s heads (aside: Has Comelec never heard of posting the sheets one page next to each other, and not in clusters of 10 or so pages?). I looked, looked again. My name wasn’t on the list. I tried three other precincts. Nada. Zilch. A volunteer advised me to ask the election inspector in 211.
By this time it was already 7:45. The nightmare started to unfold before me: it would take hours to find my name, if it is there at all. Then I would have to stay in the holding room for an indefinite period of time. I looked around: none of the precincts have started accepting voters. I confess that I chickened out, at 8:15am. I had two reasons: First, I had to replace my sister-in-law as my wheelchair-bound mom’s caregiver, as the former still had to travel to another city to cast her vote; second, I remembered the last time I stood in line, under blistering heat, at the Manila City Hall and the Department of Foreign Affairs to apply for a passport. I started at 8am, and was still at the DFA at past 5 (aside: then, like now, I had my period, and my head was throbbing). That last time, I went home sick, and was hospitalized the following day, for three days.
So those are my confessions, and this is my heartbreak. I never found out why I wasn’t on the list eventhough I was a registered, active voter, in the same place where I’ve voted since I turned 18. So this is how it feels to be disenfranchised, and disgusted with myself, and with the whole Philippine electoral system, with the lack of relevant, comprehensive media coverage that focused too much on “bilog na hugis itlog” (aside: Isn’t “oblong” a valid shape?), and not on the actual process prior to one’s feeding the ballot into the PCOS machine, which has been explained to death already. In my opinion, the PCOS machines, despite reports of technical glitches (it happens), are not the problem with these elections.In fact, the machines stood out like a sore thumb in the middle of the chaos of public school rooms filled with seemingly clueless inspectors, watchers and voters. Before I left the building, I actually stared longingly at one PCOS machine, feeling as though I missed out on a piece of relevant history.
I would have hated to be a volunteer that day, to be inundated with complaint after complaint, by people both learned and clueless about automation. The problem is not automation, but logistics and unpreparedness, and the prehistoric insistence on voters lists clumped together, confusing signages, lack of proper information and instructions. The problem is not automation, but economics. Why automate when 13,000-19,000 are still lumped together in the same polling place, sharing a handful of machines? How can a machine be of any help if only 10-15 people, some of them in need of assistance, can be accommodated in each room? When my own printer flashes “paper jam”, I throw a fit. Imagine the reaction over all the paper jam messages flashing on the PCOS machines all over the country! Didn’t anybody-Comelec, PPCRV, lawmakers, the media, the candidates themselves-anticipate this nightmare? As I type this, I’m watching the holographic technology of reporting that GMA7 is so proud of (Aside: of course they could afford it, after the multimillions spent by candidates for airtime). What is there to holograph in a country the size of Texas, USA? (Aside: the hologram of Howie Severino looks like a scene 1980’s sci-fi movie, Superman 2, specifically). Can’t a remote feed fulfil the same purpose? Mel Chanco even had the gall to suggest to voters to share in the sacrifice for the country by patiently waiting, waiting, and waiting. For what? I think she’s mistaking disorganization for heroism. Lack of foresight for sacrifice. I would gladly be a hero in a fair fight, in a venue where everyone follows the rules. Over at ABS-CBN, Pokwang is receiving calls from disgruntled voters and giving her two-cents worth. How in the world can Pokwang possibly give electoral advice? At ABC 5, Mon Tulfo and a company of dark-suited panellists openly wonder why STI was a polling place. They repeatedly stress that only public schools can be used as polling places. So what does that make San Beda Alabang, and La Salle Grrenhills? Illegal polling places? At this point, I am no longer scratching my head at the tacky campaign jingles and Erap’s survey popularity. I am wearing my scalp thin wondering, are there no more credible media outfits out there (Aside: I hope I have better luck with the broadsheets).
I know I have no right to complain if I didn’t vote. My bad. My remorse. My failure. But I still have a voice, this blog, and my love for this country to spur me on. So forgive me if I keep coming back like spam in your inbox about this failure. Forgive me for believing that our acceptance of mediocrity and our propensity for suffering the ineptitude and /or arrogance of our government systems continues to drag us down as a nation. And forgive me, Gibo. I would have voted for you.
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