May 13, 2013 was mid-term election day in the Philippines. Of course, I went out to vote.
We were pleasantly surprised not to see long lines at the voting precinct. I had registered only in 2009 and ended up in a different precinct from the rest of my family. But because Comelec implemented a cluster system since elections were automated, we still vote in the same precinct.
Just like in the 2010 elections, we went to vote as a family, except for my brother who went there straight from work so he was very early. Since the line was short, I decided I didn’t need special treatment (recovering from an operation and all) and waited patiently in line. We were all done in perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. My cousin says we’re lucky because they had to wait a lot longer. They were already done when we arrived. I guess the rain, and it being lunchtime, discouraged people from voting at the time we did.
But we really had it good. There were apparently many places in the country where voting didn’t go as smoothly as it did for us. I pray this is the last time it happens. We seriously need to have improved systems and a COMELEC who will work on it all the time, not just the year before the next elections.
Two days later, we still don’t have any of the senator-elects being proclaimed. I only voted for 9 candidates, and not everyone made it. But that’s democracy. And instead of complaining about Nancy Binay making it to the top 5, we should focus our energies on mapping out how we’ll make all 12 accountable to the people in the next six years. Instead of blaming an uninformed electorate for making Grace Poe number one and Dick Gordon teetering from number 12 to 13, let’s look at what we should do to ensure that the people can become better informed.
Political ads on TV, and the campaign sorties, were mostly how the people got to know their candidates. But those shouldn’t be the only sources of information. Netizens had some online resources, but not all of us actually took the time to review 3rd party profiles and analyses of the platforms or fact-checked debate responses. I’m just saying that no matter how sophisticated or un-sophisticated we are, the resource first has to be there, and then we need to take the time to refer to it. There needs to be an uninterested party (not affiliated with the political parties) out there who would do round-table discussions with the common folk, or maybe bring out laptops and tablets so the people can browse at material available online. But who would do it?
A group of child-rights NGOs came up with Bata Muna which was a campaign to engage with candidates to find out their stand on child-sensitive issues. That’s a good idea, I think. But then they would also need to distribute the information they gathered. In the end they did not seek to endorse any particular candidate, but they did present the candidates’ responses on critical issues. I took note of that and it helped frame who I would vote for.
Leading up to the elections you would see a lot of push to go out and vote. That’s good. COMELEC sees voter turnout at 70%. So 70% of registered voters cared enough to make their votes count. Kudos to us. But it’s not just how many people vote; what’s important is the thought-process behind those votes. Sorry, but do I make sense?
As for me, I continue to be hopeful for the country. I did my best to vote for the candidates that I feel would ensure that the future is secure, and that we learn from past mistakes. More candidates who didn’t get my vote are actually winning but that is no reason to be sad or jaded. That is democracy after all.