Elections in perspective


With an 80 percent turnout, what can one expect at the polling places? Particularly, polling places that are public buildings like schoolhouses. Overcrowding, congestion, long waiting periods, short tempers, sweating it out in this year’s searing summer heat. Electoral machines broke down right and left. Maybe the heat affected them? They may have been a small percentage in the overall number fielded but just one breakdown causes an incremental delay. In my daughter’s precinct in a gated subdivision, the machine refused to work so after a two-hour wait, they left their ballots to be inserted when the machine started to work. In my helper’s Taytay schoolhouse, the machine conked out while the crowd piled up. No technician, no replacement. Nada. After four hours’ wait she left without voting. Meanwhile, senior citizens all around left long before. Their physical condition could not endure hours of waiting.

Thank goodness in my crowded, disorderly, hot and humid polling place in Mandaluyong the machine worked. But it was a wait just the same as senior citizens were many, too many to make them go ahead of the line which would have caused the non-seniors to wait too long. So, the solution was to have two lines and let one vote alternately from each line. It was acceptable.

The Board of Election Inspectors and their assistants were quite helpful and solicitous, particularly of senior citizens, some of whom were cantankerous and cranky. But the voting got done.

Gone are the days, except maybe in gated subdivisions, when you came and voted quickly and efficiently. There are just too many voters. And the machines are a factor that can change the equation of an efficient voting exercise to a delayed mess.

Everyone wants to participate in elections here and those who cannot wish they could. There seems to be more riding on them than just the final results. Unlike other countries where the living is good and there are few vital worries that gnaw at citizens so they do not bother to vote. Ours is a different event of numerous votes. Good for democracy, yes. But the motives behind voting exercises still leave much to be desired. Tribalism reigns and people vote by ethnic groups, classmates, friends and even friends of friends take priority over issues, platforms, visions, credentials. It comes down to personalities one identifies with because of any number of positively trivial or frivolous reasons. They can be good looks, family ties, personal promises that are self-serving rather than for the common good, reasons that seem to be far removed from what they should be.

This time it was more like an angry message to the powers that be for past errors, insensitivities, and a general dismay at the erosion of living standards and comforts.

Well, the message has been given good and strong with consequences that should if positive bring a change or improvement that will cure what we see as ailing us.

That is as we hope for the best. The Establishment has to react in the best way possible by accepting, assisting, working together with the new dispensation. It seems ready to do so.

For me the real and fundamental change that has come in this election with its startling majority of votes for an anti-Establishment figure is that it has been accepted and not obstructed, particularly by the current Administration. What a difference from 1992 when the anti-Establishment figure who ran for president was Miriam Defensor Santiago, who till the day I die I will believe was the winner of that six-candidate race. Instead there was the Sulo Hotel operation, which among other things sent off Administration figures in helicopters with bags of cash to Mindanao to suborn provincial boards of canvassers. No, I have no proof because they didn’t require receipts but I am not alone to know it happened.

So, that Rodrigo Duterte is our new President is a big leap forward in our democratic efforts at nation-building.


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