Monday, May 10, 2010

Suffrage






Manila, Philippines - A sea of change has swept over the country. After nine years of poor leadership under GMA, the nation gets to choose its new leaders. Elections are now automated and despite the machines' flaws, people came in droves to exercise their right to vote. The media have a bigger role to play - it tells the events happening around the country. Technology has become an aid in information harvesting. Swarms of citizen-journalists are detailing their varied experiences as they go around and report from the field.

After a decade of being eligible to suffrage, it is only now I played a part in our democracy. Blame my disinterest to lack of leaders to choose from. Apathy was the theme in the past elections. Now, the stakes are higher. The people counting on my vote have a real chance of victory and the government, which I despised needs a replacement.

There is an urgent need for change.

I spent sleepless nights thinking about my vote. I had doubts about my president and more doubts whether the elections will push through or not. May 10 is the D-Day and like everyone who followed the campaign trail, I too was eager to know how it will end.

The polling station assigned to me was in a school halfway between Nagtahan and SM Centerpoint. Free rides were offered in my neighborhood and going to the precinct was never a hassle. However, the real adventure begins the moment you step outside the free ride. Supporters of different local candidates flood you with sample ballots, cardboard fans with the candidates' headshot printed on both sides of the surface and even fliers bannering a re-electionist's list of accomplishments.

True to what is being reported in the news, the line going to the PCOS machine snaked around the floor of my precinct. The deluge of people arriving to vote and the searing temperature thanks to the sunny weather didn't ease my growing frustration. I picked my stub at around 10 in the morning. The people in front of the line has been there before 8. The time difference alone would turn back some voters, but for the sake of exercising my right to pick my leaders, I chose to stay behind and bear with the people waiting in line.



Tagaktak sa pawis at nanlalagkit na katawan, nakipila ako para bumoto. Sa taas ng stress level sa pagtayo pa lang sa pila, nakaramdam rin ako ng panghihina ng loob sa sistema. Nagsimula rin maglaro sa utak ko ang Failure of Elections scenario na pinangangambahan ng marami. Paano kasi ay kung toxic na sa presinto ko ganung hindi naman marami ang mga botante, paano pa kaya sa mga presintong triple ang dami ng mga boboto.

Marami ang nagreklamo. Pati ako ay nagsimulang magsungit na. Mabuti na lang at bihira lang ang mga sumisingit sa pila, kung hindi ay tiyak na may rambol na naganap. Sa isip ko, hindi kaya sinadyang gawing hassle ang eleksyon ngayong automated na ito para may makinabang sa Malacanang? For sure, pinagkaperahan lang ang mga PCOS machine dahil mas mabilis daw ang sistema noong manual pa ang bilangan.

Sa kabila ng tila 48 years na pag-iintay, hindi naman ako masyadong nabagot sa aking pila. Bukod kasi sa panaka-nakang pag-iikot sa paligid ng school, (para mag sightseeing ng mga cute na guys) lumalabas rin ako para bumili ng C2 o kaya naman ay mag sigarilyo Nang magsawa sa kakaikot, pangungulit naman sa katabi ang aking ginawa. Siguro ay sadya lang akong ma-PR, pero ang sa totoo, hindi ka tatagal sa botohan kung walang kang tiyaga maghintay.



It was almost noon when voters were ushered inside a room where chairs are arranged in a circular formation. Everyone gets to sit face to face with other voters so nagkakakila-kilala tuloy ang lahat. Others candidly called the room the prayer room, for when a voter gets outside - after more than an hour of waiting - an undeniable shine appears on the voter's face. My guess is because he is just steps away from the precinct itself, or because he has made a lot friends inside the prayer room that he could run for baranggay councilor and actually win.

The case was different for me and the tens of other voters, whose turn to cast their ballot was delayed by the teachers and technicians' lunch break. Furious and disappointed, many voters inside the prayer room left to vent their frustrations elsewhere. Good thing, I saw an ex-neighbor whose long-standing conflict between her father and my mother remains a hot issue in our compound. I told her about a brewing tension involving my mom and her father's mistress. After learning that the kids were all against the mistress - who now fashions herself as the new owner of their house - I spilled everything that is happening in their once homey nook.

"Ang kapal niya ha, squatter lang naman siya ah!" The neighbor fumes in disgust. Told her, they live like pigs in the driveway.

"Nagpapasensya na nga lang kami eh. Mismong pambili ng gas, wala sila kaya sa daanan nagluluto ng hapunan."

She told me some sad realities her father is reaping right now. The last time I blogged about her family, I wrote that her mother passed away with bitterness towards her two-timing father. The siblings who were thrown out of their old house now live in relative comfort, while those who stayed behind appear to sink - like her father who is now old and have to support a one-year old kid and a good-for-nothing kabit who is becoming the favorite villain in the compound.

Old bonds were cemented. When our families were at the brink of an open war, it was us who kept a backdoor channel. I'm glad that things have turned for the better for her and her family. Not only does she moved to a new apartment after being thrown out, she also owns several pedicabs where she earns her extra income.

We covered many topics while waiting. Time went so fast the next thing we knew, the queue was again moving at breakneck speeds. A lot of people left the queue so we were able to get past and vote early. In less than 30 minutes, there were only five people in front of the line. The twelfth hour approaches with every stray minute. Finally, I saw myself standing in front of the election officer's desk to surrender my stub.

"Precinct number niyo po?"

"2103B po."

After checking my name in the master list, the election officer handed over the smooth and crisp COMELEC Ballot.



Mas mahaba pa sa pupil's desk ang official ballot. Sa pinakataas nito matatagpuan ang mga Pangulong pagpipilian. Kasunod nito ang Bise-Presidente at mga Senador. Sa ibaba ng listahan ng mga Senador ay ang mga party list. Sa likod ang Congressman ng aming distrito pati na ang pagpipiliang Mayor, Vice Mayor at mga City Councilor.

Bukod kay Miriam Santiago at Isko Moreno, lahat ng nasa balota ko ay galing sa Liberal Party. Katulad ng aking naisulat sa nakaraang blog entry, malaking factor ang Political Party na kinabibilangan ng aking mga leader. Masarap sanang isipin na katulad ko ang mga botante sa aking paligid. Subalit sa anumang Demokrasya, malaya tayong ipahayag ang ating nasa damdamin.

"Sinong Presidente mo?" Tanong ko sa aking katabi.

"Noynoy ako."

"Ako rin Noynoy. Pareho tayo!!"

"Pero yang katabi mo si Villar. Siya lang naiiba sa atin." Nagtawanan ang mga nasa upuan. Dedma lang si maka-Villar.

"Naku wala pa akong Congressman! Sino po ang iboboto niyo?" Tanong kong muli sa aking katabi. Isa siyang matandang babae na nakasalamin. Ang kanyang itim na suot na kumikinang ay bagay na bagay sa isang bagets.

"Kay Bacani ako. Mag-Bacani ka na rin!"

"Kay Lim po ba siya o kay Atienza?" Nagtinginan ang iba naming mga katabi. Lahat sila ay gustong muling buhayin ang MayniLA.

"Liberal Party siya." Play safe ang sagot ng ale.

Sa tinagal tagal naming nag-iintay sa loob ng prayer room, isang baranggay ang maaring magbago ng mga kandidatong ilalagay sa balota.



The most difficult part of shading the ballot was the dread of extending the ink beyond the egg next to the candidates' name. Imagine waiting for hours to vote only for the PCOS Machine to reject your ballot. Disaster. I'm sure, mishaps do happen in other polling precincts. Even an accidental dent of a voter's chair and the pen would leave a nasty mark on the ballot.

In an age where keyboards replace notepads and ballpens as means of input devices, and when pasmados attempt to shade a tiny circle, chances are he would leave some worrisome marks that may cause his vote to be rejected.

That was what I thought would happen after going beyond the egg when I shaded Mar Roxas' name.

It took me ten minutes to fill-out my ballot. Facing the counting machine which resembles more like a washing appliance than a device for tabulating votes, I let the ballot slide from my hand and be swallowed by the PCOS Machine. Fixing my gaze at the electronic screen, it says my ballot is being validated.

Waiting...

I do not know how many ballots were already rejected before my turn to vote.

Waiting...

The elections wasn't as chaotic as first impressions suggest.

Waiting...

"Congratulations! Your vote has been counted!"

With the indelible ink staining my nail, I left the polling station to pick my mother and accompany her to vote in another school.

Together with the Lesbian driver, it took them 30 minutes to cast their votes.

From the free jeepney ride I boarded near my house to the picture-taking of my ink-stained finger after the machine counted my vote,






Mine took four hours to finish a journey.




9 comments:

Felipe said...

at least, success na, right? :)

...now... we wait....

daniel said...

Grabe. Mine took three hours! Godbless our country! : )

Ronnie said...

My family and I had to wait for three hours before we get inside the precinct! Buti na lang may dalang payong si Mother, daig pa ang girl scout haha.

~Carrie~ said...

Ironic that when the voting process became automated, things got a little worse than the manual process.

I also feel the COMELEC should perform parallel manual count alongside the computerized ballots.

Off topic, friend: dalawa na Kami ni Soltero ang insistent public demand for that blog entry. Yung BH encounters! Hehehe!

SOLTERO said...

nakalimutan ko na ung feeling ng bumoboto sa Pinas...reading this, naramdaman ko rin pano bumoto ulet(me kasama pang tsismis ahaha). and yes, pareho din tayo ng ibobotong pangulo kung sakali!

gillboard said...

ngayon naiinggit ako sa mga bumoto... parang sana bumoto din ako kahapon.. edi sana nadagdagan ng boto yung choice ko... ngayon tuloy wala ako karapatan magreklamo...

iurico said...

Ako, wala naman akong problema sa automated elections. I already knew it's a change that will inevitably be met with doubts and apprehensions. ganun tayong mga pinoy. Medyo hesitant sa changes.

Ang problema ko lang dito is that COMELEC couldnt employed better strategic planning. They could've formulated action plans on things that they forsee as "imminent." It doesnt take a fortune teller to forsee that a long queue on this day is inevitable and it also doesnt take a rocket scientist to have readied huge umbrellas/tents to shield the voters from the scorching heat of the sun.

At least, this was the scenario on a voting precint here in Iloilo. Now, Im back to square one with likas papaya.

domjullian said...

ako almost 1 hour lang buti na lang kasi kung tumagal pa ako ng konti ay mapapa away ako sa daming ng tanga at nagmamarunong.

Semaj said...

Maaga naman ako nakatapos bumoto dahil sa maaga ako dumating sa presinto kung saan ako boboto.

Pero gaya ng sabi ko sa isa kong blog entry, di sulit ang bilyon bilyong binayad para dyan. Akalain mo nga naman, may ilang di nakaboto dahil sa kapalpakan sa pila at pagboto, isama pa dyan ang ilang depektibong makina sa ilang lugar. Sana lang eh sa susunod, maayos naman ng COMELEC ang mga problemang ito para sa susunod na halala, di na muli maulit ang ganitong klaseng mga kapalpakan at problema.