Manual voting seems so ancient. This picture was taken back in 2004.
With the success of our first automated polls, there's no going back to manual voting.
I was one of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Volunteers for this election and was assigned as a Roving Photographer for our 76 precincts grouped under 13 clusters. Here are my notes about election day.
1. It was generally peaceful. At least in Phase 3. Yes, it may not have been as orderly as people wanted it to be--people shouted; tempers flared; and maybe there were near-riots--but there was honest effort on the part of the teachers and the PPCRV volunteers to give everyone their due. I was also in awe of the voters who patiently stood under the unforgiving sun and waited for their turn to vote. I salute everyone.
2. Can a cleaner election season be far behind? For now, we seem to have dealt dagdag-bawas a fatal blow with our first automated counting. If we managed to somewhat clean our electoral system, I hope it won't be far in the future when we can also do away with 90% of our election posters and hold a more environmentally friendly election season.
3. It could have been better. It was our first time for automated polls so the chaos was expected. Nevertheless, crowd control could have been better. Planning could have been better. Information dissemination could have been better. But the Comelec never tested the system in a mock election scenario so even they had to admit that their clustering system, which greatly contributed to the huge crowds, is something they have to rethink in the future.
4. We needed more volunteers. The PPCRV had its hands full handling pre-election preparations and providing election day assistance to the Comelec. On hindsight, more planning for crowd control could have been done but the organization did what it could, thanks to a lot of help from its dedicated volunteers and our parish church, which lent its site and facilities to the PPCRV pre-election seminars and meetings.
5. It was a miracle no one fainted in the oppressive, rubber-melting, strength-sapping, sanity-endangering and mind-numbing heat. I couldn't sleep the night before. I thought it was hotter than usual. Election day proved no better. I had to get up at 5:15 a.m. to be at the site by 6 a.m. By 10:30 a.m., I was too enervated to continue so I went home to take a short rest and change to sandals. My neck was chafing from lugging a camera for hours on end, which wasn't exactly a sane thing to do that day. They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Well, only askal dogs and patriotic Pinoys stay out in the midday sun and tough it out.
6. Senior citizens rock. There was the smiling 85-year-old Mrs. Bella Cotoner who came with her daughter followed by her 90-year-old husband, Mr. Venusto Cotoner, who walked with his grandson. With canes in hand and hope on their faces, they managed to walk into our historic first automated polls. Wheelchair-bound men and women were not an uncommon sight either. At the other end of the generation scale was first-time voter, 19-year-old Larissa Lim, who voted after the Cotoners. It may have been that the senior citizens caught my attention more but they seem to have outnumbered the youth that day.
7. Democracy is worth all this. We had our first automated vote even though the automated part was really limited to just automated counting but who cared? Something was automated at last. We leaped from 3rd-world 20th-century backwardness and knocked on first-world 21st-century technology, even if only for the counting part. It's a small step up but a giant leap forward. So were the pre-election doomsayers justified? Let's just say given the track record of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, they had every right to keep everyone vigilant.
8. If I become president.... I would have the Comelec build voting centers all over the country, with complete amenities like waiting areas, bathrooms, food counters, voters assistance areas, etc. The centers could double as convention centers in the non-election years to generate funds. But it would also serve as a venue for continuing voters' eduction seminars as well as biometrics center, voters' lists cleansing center, etc. Voting should not stop after the polls close--it should be a continuous process of improving our technology, our systems, our mechanics, our voters, and not least of all, our candidates. I can dream, can't I?
9. And speaking of biometrics, if I were president (while I'm at it), I would implement the National ID system. Half the long lines and voting delay can be attributed to the time spent (or wasted) registering at the Comelec desk. The next part of automation should be for a reliable voters' identification system. The third part can perhaps be devoted to automated voting per se.
10. Teachers and volunteers should merit a day-off the day after elections. It was a 20-hour day for most of us, perhaps even longer for the teachers. At least some volunteers had shifts--the teachers worked straight. Their enviable stamina could put many athletes to shame. In the future, I hope voters pause and take note of their dedication, their nightmarish working hours, and their work ethic before they heap criticisms on them. When I went home at midnight, many of them were still inside the court.
11. I still haven't had the time to see if there was news about the 300,000 teachers in danger of disenfranchisement. Of all the duh scenarios about this election, perhaps this takes the cake. You mandate teachers to serve then you penalize them for voting elsewhere?! Sometimes, you wonder if working in the Comelec melts your brain.
12. Elections in the Philippines is hope and despair personified. It gives me hope to see how patriotic we can be; the look on some voters' faces while they were voting and after they had cast their votes was priceless. That said, it makes me despair to see the kind of people we elect. Erap Estrada in second place? On the other hand, you might ask, who made him eligible to run again? Intellectually-challenged and intellectually-endowed leaders seem to have little difference between them. Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto, and Lito Lapid in the Senate? Don't get me wrong--Vilma Santos, from what I've read of her, seems to have performed admirably in Batangas. But I can name more deserving candidates than those three men above.
13. Elections in the Philippines is a paradox. All candidates promise the sun and the moon (some may even promise the universe) but they cannot follow a simple rule and plea to follow the poster rule? In the same breath, we expect the sun and the moon (and maybe the universe, too) from our candidates and yet we also cannot follow the simple rule regarding election posters?
14. The surveys were, after all, accurate. Will they get a little more love and respect from the public after this?
15. And lastly, it's a new beginning. All eyes are on the president-elect. His late mother hardly had the normal 100-day honeymoon before the bickbats and coups started flying her way. We gave the outgoing president 9 years of our lives. She gave us 9 years of suffering and yet we tolerated her. Would that we give Noynoy Aquino the space and support he deserves and needs to restore our faith and trust in government. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has made sure that the next president will have a hard time--her final laugh is appointing Justice Corona, a known crony of hers as Chief Justice--so bear this in mind as Aquino negotiates his way through the landmines she has unconscionably laid down for her successor and pray for him. God bless the Philippines!