Leksyon from Election 2013
I am ashamed to say that despite all my rantings and perpetual moaning in this blog against the hopeless state of the government and the eye-rolling mentality of Filipino people on choosing their leaders, I am actually a first-time voter. I’ve always believed that voting, as well as paying taxes, would entitle me the right to complain and give me the status of a ‘boss’ or a CEO. You give the salary, pick the people who you think is best for the job, criticize the hell out of your public servants and eventually, fire them.
Sadly, this isn’t the case here in the Philippines, where people choose candidates like buying a new phone. They rely on brand (familiar names) but on the look-out for new version/products (new faces). Even if you choose the right candidates, your bets are all up against the million votes for the wrong people elected by the ignorant majority. I had long realized that unless every Filipino home has a WiFi on their homes, Filipinos will and always will elect the wrong, incompetent people.
Early morning of 13th, as I was fixing a cup of coffee , my mom asked if I got my list of candidates ready. I prepared mine last night after much deliberations over the internet because I have second guesses over my original candidates. In the end, I settled for 9/12 senators and abstained to 8 councilors in local office.
The first thing I saw when I reached the precinct is the long queue. Thankfully, my university had longer queues in terms of enrollment, registration and payment of several fees, so without blinking an eye, I squeezed my way in the throngs of people to my cluster, checked my name in the list, and settled myself to the end of the long line. As I was recalling my list, I overheard a group of elderly poll watchers who are criticizing the lack of organization in COMELEC’s part. Marikina has fewer voters than the rest of other cities so it’s less chaotic and more manageable but I heard that in some cities like Quezon and Manila, people are cramped together inside voting precinct, enduring heat and all just to cast votes. They spotted me listening and smiled at me.
“Kaya kayo bumoto kayo nang tama ha. Para di na maging kawawa ang bansa natin,” one of them said to me. I smiled back. I didn’t stay awake until midnight to research the candidates and endure long minutes of waiting just to vote for mediocre officials.
The precinct in Marikina Heights is generally peaceful and organized. But at some point, one poll watcher from another cluster complained about a malfunctioning PCOS machine. The machine in our cluster isn’t doing any better either. It has to be repeatedly opened up so to clear the ballots from jamming the machine and sometimes it doesn’t register the votes. People have to insert their ballots again and it happened more than once.
A pollwatcher had my name checked on the list and when she verifies my identity, I was given a single ballot sheet to be filled up. I can’t explain it but my heart is drumming against my chest, like it always do before a big exam. In some way, voting is like a major examination. You get the answers from your own, and if you answered the wrong choices, you have 3-5 years to suffer the consequences. No wonder I have to calm myself before I opened the marker and shade down my votes. After inciting a brief prayer, I looked down at my choices below and set out to vote.
It was an almost awesome moment when the PCOS swallowed in my ballot only to cough it back again so I can turn it around. It was even a more glorious one when one of the watchers dipped the iconic indelible ink on my finger. It felt cold and heavy, as if a heavy bandage is wrapped around my finger.
After voting, I immediately logged in to the internet to stand vigil for the media reports about the elections. At about 8:00 PM, votes started to trickle in. And like the rest of educated Filipinos out there, I can only sit there, shocked and disturbed over the initial results.
Still I never gave up hoping. I was confident the line-up will change and the ones who should be in the senate would finally get the position they so deserve. Hours passed and nothing changed that much. We’re still stuck with the same names, but with different faces.
Naturally, I was outraged. I kept protesting and ranting and shouting hellish words over social media but words can do nothing. These are the candidates the people have chosen. Nothing will change that. I was so angry I almost cried. My head hurts for holding so much pent-up emotions. I wouldn’t go in detail about the people who shouldn’t be in the line-up, I bet you people already knew them, and I also bet you all felt the same thing about them being in that list.
Apparently, I exercised the democratic right to vote, but I remained passive in my duty to enlighten my fellowmen. To blame the ignorant masses over the result is like blaming your dog over the mess it caused after trampling over your neighbor’s flowerbed. It didn’t know any better. Naturally,just like the majority of the people, they would stick to their instinct and mentality. This messed-up line-up is just a reflection of an overwhelming fact that most Filipinos are still far away from the fringes of modern technology and information flow, and we the, the gods of the internet, failed to give them the proverbial Fire of Prometheus.
Past all the disillusionment and cynicism over the turn-out of recent events, I struggled to get hold of my remaining shred of hope, that someday, Filipinos will have a very high standard on electing their public leaders. It’s never too late for education and enlightenment. All I’m asking for you guys is to never give up on our country and in our people. Big words, you will say, but I will say them nonetheless: The prevailing system and mentality can still change. And I’m determined to be a part of that change.