By JENNIFER CHAN
This year’s presidential elections marked a huge and significant change in Philippine politics. And it’s not just because of the automation process although that, too, is a big deal.
For the first time in a long while, people actually wanted to vote. You could see students, employees, and entrepreneurs alike discussing their respective candidates in a serious and intelligent manner. While there were still those who voted for reasons unfathomable to someone with a brain, a good number of the populace seemed to have grown up.
Personally, I believe that a lot of factors were responsible for making this happen. Events prior to the elections and efforts made by concerned citizens and organizations definitely had an impact on the nation.
Leading up to the elections
The passing of former President Corazon Aquino, for one, had unintentionally awakened some semblance of nationalism in the country. Her supporters and those who were old enough to have participated in the first People Power in 1986 made it a point to join the long funeral procession from La Salle Greenhills to the Manila Cathedral last year . I was in Magallanes then (stalling before an interview) when the procession passed. The support was overwhelming. Even for just a day, it seemed like everybody pushed aside his or her differences and united in bereavement.
The horrifying Maguindanao massacre, on the other hand, did more than just evoke emotions in the apathetic Filipino. It pried our eyes open and forced us to look at how out of control people in power have become. While justice has yet to be served, everybody—both young and old—understood the gravity of political unrest in the country. A strong chilling effect resonated in the nation. Now, everybody knows that we are far from having the freest press in Asia.
Instead of cowering back in fear, however, members of the Philippine press continued to charge forward. Television networks, radio stations and print (both traditional and electronic) kept a close eye on the political scene. Late night debates, constant interviews and in-depth articles had everyone on their toes. As a result, a lot of people were widely informed about the candidates’ platforms. They saw the strengths and weaknesses of each running politician, helping them make a decision based on solid facts.
It was a big step towards better elections.
Automated elections—win or fail?
But on May 10, 2010, it seemed like for every one thing that went right, three more went wrong. PCOS machines broke down, lines were unbearably long and bomb blasts and gunfire sent voters scurrying off in different directions… It was far from being the peaceful elections everybody had hoped it would be.
Lady Anne Yrma Yadao, a 21-year-old resident of Marikina, shared that she had to wait for at least three hours before she reached her turn to vote. In other parts of the country, the waiting hours were longer. Some voters fainted in the middle of the wait and others didn’t even get a chance to vote because there was no time left.
Despite all these setbacks, a lot of people appreciated the automation of the elections. Within the day, everyone more or less knew which candidates were leading the pack. Many of the voters also believed that the chances of cheating were decreased dramatically.
And since this was the first time the country has ever experienced automated elections, all eyes were on the poll. Media groups and ordinary citizens were on guard as the day progressed. Even those who weren’t able to vote had their eyes glued to their television screens, watching the events unfold. Every PCOS breakdown, every small irregularity was immediately taken into consideration.
Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media were blasting off regular updates. This was citizen journalism at its best.
The elections may already be over but the real war isn’t just yet. Media groups are still on guard, documenting every move made by the COMELEC and the movers and shakers of the political arena.
But what’s intriguing is that voters haven’t loosened their grip on their votes either. Many eagerly await the final results, watching the news and updating each other constantly. A lot of students have also volunteered their time to help double check ballots.
Granted, the 2010 Philippine elections have not exactly gone smoothly but as long as the people remain vigilant, I’m pretty sure there’s hope for this country yet. (Bulatlat.com)