CONGRESS MIDWIVES DECLARED TWIN CHILD AFTER ROBOTIC LABOR PAINS
As I witnessed the last chapter of the series of the historic national canvass of votes for the president and vice president on a TV channel, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles stood willfully within the bounds of their mandated duty and authority, while hearing the painful moans of questions by cynics and skeptics that arose in the labor process, with the full support and clinical attendance of their colleagues in both houses of congress.
The labor pain of the motherland took about two weeks to finally give birth of a twin child in the new dawn of democracy. The COMELEC under Commissioner Jose Melo, as the attending doctor of the twin child, has exhaustively shared the same birth pains while answering more determinedly their tormentors in its boldest fashion why they cause the shifting of methods from its age-old manual method to birth automation to the plain satisfaction and relief of the fathers---the voters.
In my whole life I would never forget this experience of befriending the PCOS machine in my precinct. At first, the PCOS machine rejected my ballot. I thought there was something wrong with the machine but later realized that part of my ballot was a little bit crumpled at the rightmost edge so I made it plain. Then I fed it back to the machine while whispering “Come on, come on… please accept… please count my vote.” In a few seconds, the machine indicated in its miniscule screen, “Congratulations! Your vote was registered.” I felt that happy moment, I just said, “Yes!”
In the many manual elections that I have participated in many years ago, both local and national elections, I am a witness of the many incidents of threats and political intimidations; read in the newspapers about political killings, and massive vote-buying.
I should like to share this secret combination I’ve known in the local scene about vote buying to give familiarity of the usual scenes in the precinct level.
The vote buyers usually gave to the potential vote seller the name code. Say, the seller will cast his vote for mayor and vice mayor, and 8 councilors; if both agreed that the seller will only cast his vote to the buyer’s favored candidate for mayor, and don’t care about the vice mayor and councilors, the name code is usually written as the vice mayor of his ballot which must be a different name other than those listed; or the name of one of the candidates for councilors in the numbered series will be changed to the name code given by the vote buyer. If the vote seller has other members of the family who are eligible to vote, the same code will be written on their respective ballots.
During the canvassing, the votes will be read by the Chairman of the BEIs, and the other members of the BEIs will tally the same on the authorized tally sheets while some volunteers are also tasked to tally separately the votes on a tally sheet taped on the blackboard or any available space where it should fit. As the canvassing continue, the authorized person usually the party watcher specifically assigned to monitor at least five or ten voters by just intently listening to the utterances of the vote reader while taking notes of the code names being mentioned in the process, of course, to the unwitting amazement of the crowd.
At the end of the canvassing, the person assigned to monitor the code names will finally review his own tally on the code names and refer these code names to the master list of people assigned with it. And there goes the confirmation that the voter who was bought actually cast the expected vote. By the next election year, these master lists will be reviewed again for money budgeting purposes.
This is only one of those usual vote-buying techniques in the manual election employed by some moneyed or unscrupulous politicians. By simply reading the votes by viva voce gives greater opportunities for the vote buyers to exploit their poor brethren to be left with no alternatives but to submit to their adumbrated choice. When this is so as it may, automation then is one of the best methodologies to minimize or totally eradicate vote manipulation during election. Surely, this would elevate our election process which we rhetorically advocate to be clean, honest, and orderly.
Manual election, I should frankly say, was the bitterest experience for all of us who suffered long enough of the political injustices that the ruling few have done.
I believe that this is what some traditional politicians would want to relive as they tried to impute the PCOS machines’ alleged inefficiency to provide accurate results while glorifying the age-old manual method. They condemned automation because they argue that the Filipinos are not the ones who really voted but the machines. What I do know is that this would be the last shameful stance of these traditional politicians against technology, and will be the last ferocious attack by the skeptics and cynics, because I trust that the one who spawns this argument has in his possession a cell phone.
Moreover, I should like to congratulate the senate and the house for a very splendid and exhaustive shepherding of the national canvassing of votes that brought satisfaction even to the least of our brethren who dreamed to be free from the claws of political vultures and gangs of streetworms who frequently vie the highest bid to either buy or sway off the votes of the people in favor of their candidates. I do believe that this trade will soon be out of our political exercises with high expectations that the 15th Congress will introduce changes or amendments in our election code.
I do hope that the COMELEC can strengthen further, if not, reinvigorate the successful momentum that this automated election has brought to the whole nation. By this, I can now recognize that the real bastion of power lies in the collective votes of the majority of our people. It is expected that the promises as declared during the election campaign will be the living guideposts for all the winning candidates; and the barb of grudges and discomfitures will soon expire as we now journey to the new dawn of national leadership.