Halalan 2010

I got up at 5:30 this morning. I was really excited that it would be yet another chance for me to exercise my right.

This would be my third election to vote in—I noticed in the registered voters folder that I still had long hair in my picture, so that  would date back to my college days.

My lola, mom and I got to the polling place at around 7:30. Our line was thankfully in the shade of the parish church, and some conscientious PPCRV volunteers set up electric fans to alleviate the heat.

My mom and I spent time talking about various things: Jejenism, high school reading lists, lost scripts from old plays, and many other things.

The man behind me in line kept muttering under his breath that the line was moving too slowly. He was right about that, but he kept exaggerating how slow it was: “Four people in an hour! Four people in an hour!”

The number was actually closer to 32 in an 45 minutes. Our line was moving much faster than the line beside us, which was not only standing in the sun, but was also moving so slowly that whenever the staff asked for people to enter the hall, they would erupt into cheers.

We got into the hall after about an hour of waiting, but we had to wait another hour until we were allowed to pick up our ballots. As I sat there and talked with my mom, Whiner beside me saw a discarded sample ballot on the floor. He picked it up, took a look on it, then dropped it, continuing to mutter to himself.

I bent down and picked up the trash and kept it in my pocket. He stopped audibly complaining then and did his best to get away from my mom and I.

As we waited in the last few seats before our turns, we talked to one of the BEIs who was managing the place. She explained that it wasn’t fair for the voters to boss them around, as they had been pulled from their various hometowns. She had come from Parañaque; another of her companions had been sent from Antipolo. They had such a hard time putting together the materials, and late last night they had to retrieve the PCOS cards from the COMELEC. They arrived at the polling center early this morning and slept a grand total of two hours. You’ve got to hand it to these teachers—they’re not getting paid much to do this, it’s tiring, frustrating, and can go wrong in so many ways. They’re the true heroes of this democratic process.

When my turn finally came, I looked for my name in the voters folder and signed. The man who was feeding his ballot into the PCOS was taking a while; the BEI assisting him let him try multiple times. However, he ran out of tries—a single stray ballpen mark had spoiled his entire ballot.

When I was handed my ballot and my marker, I was really nervous. One extraneous mark and my vote would be useless. But as a little green alien has said, “Do or do not; there is no try.” I set about marking my candidates.

I then handed in my ballot.

The PCOS machine took in the ballot. “Scanning Complete.” Was it going to spit the ballot?  A few seconds later: “Congratulations! Your vote has been registered!”

I breathed a sigh of relief. My mom finished a few minutes after me. It was finally done. It took a grand total of 2 hours and 15 minutes.

When I got home, I turned on my computer and began to monitor the events. After a while, a taho vendor came by. I bought a cup from him, then asked him if he had voted.

He said he hadn’t had the chance yet, so I warned him of the potential problems: the lines were long and slow-moving, and as such there were some people who were getting impatient and leaving. I told him it wasn’t a good idea and it would be better to just wait.

The second problem is that ballots were very easy to spoil; a single stray mark would completely waste all his effort AND his voice. The taho vendor said that he hopes that doesn’t happen to him, so I told him to take care and he thanked me for the advice.

We have to face it: Whenever something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Machines are not fool-proof, and just because things are electronic doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen—believe me, I should know. My old laptop often gave me such a big headache.

Whenever there are new processes, new problems surface. People shouldn’t be surprised. It still takes a while for these problems to be fixed.

It’s a shame that there are still violence problems. It’s a shame there’s still voter intimidation, harassment, and vote buying. But I’m still optimistic—the youth are more concerned and about their country. They care, they think, and participate. I pray that these kids may keep up their love for their country and be able to keep participating.

I’m not really a staunch believer in democracy, or at least I don’t think it’s everything it’s hyped up to be. Nevertheless, that’s how we operate, and if we’re going to operate by it, we’d better do it well. I’m glad that my students at least, encourage me that they’re participating in it conscientiously.

~ by J. R. R. Flores on May 10, 2010.

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