Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unripe, Ripe, Rotten: The different phases of the 2010 election

UNRIPE…the pre-election perception

Less than a year before May 10, 2010 election, Comelec entered into a contract with a foreign firm Smartmatic to carry out the project for poll automation. The sealed deal officially marked an important milestone for the government’s thrust for poll automation and indicated a new era in Philippine politics. Such move did not escape critics who mulled over the high probability of a failed election which eventually created uncertainties among the public. As Comelec played an “against-all-odds” role and Smartmatic resolves its own issues with its local partner TIM, the calls for cancellation of the poll automation all the more became louder. The Arroyo administration endured public scrutiny, relentless media probe and doomsayers’ prediction of an impending crisis but palace did not deter from its plan to pursue an automated election for 2010. Comelec and its contractor faced bigger challenges as the project reached its phase by phase implementation, it also created a bigger question if the country is really ready for the poll automation. Different issues as regards the testing and distribution of PCOS, the clustering of precincts, the testing of ballots, the training of BEI, the public awareness campaign, the mock election and all doubt about this new system to be implemented became the talk of the nation which was covered in every news headlines. There were groups who engaged in hunger strike and barricaded in front of the Comelec office to push for the parallel manual counting as they question the integrity of the automated election. Two days before the election, Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM was once again in hot water when manual count did not match the PCOS-generated returns during one of the random testing. This issue heightened the groups demand for parallel manual counting while other groups and even two presidential candidates called for postponement of the election. Comelec and the contractor gave different explanation for such an occurrence, but fairly enough Smartmatic was quick to act on the matter and dispatched the memory card replacement in 76,000 precincts nationwide in less than 48 hours. Comelec responded with a resolution for no parallel manual counting and an affirmation that the May 10 election will push through as planned although most groups perceived the move for automated election as still “unripe for the picking”.

RIPE…the election outcome

The big day event came and as perceived, problem as regards the introduction of a new system was evident such as disenfranchised voters, PCOS that bogged down, lengthened waiting time as a result of precinct clustering, rejected vote due to strict ballot scan process by PCOS machines and add to that the perpetual problem of vote-buying and other desperate shocking schemes perpetrated by politicians who refused to be out of the limelight.

The eleven hours allotted time from 7AM to 6PM for casting of votes was extended by Comelec for another hour up to 7PM to address the prolonged waiting time while Smartmatic deployed service technician and reserved PCOS machines to either troubleshoot or replace non-functional ones. After passing through the rigor of this whole new poll process and almost two hours after the closing of precincts, election results started to be transmitted to the central server which gave Comelec the chance to have a televised conference to provide update to the public and release an official partial count of the election. It was a total different scenario from the previous elections wherein teachers were subjected to a hard-days’ work and a stressful and tedious nights and days of manual counting. It is also evident that people were more vigilant of the election process and actively participated in this exercise as Comelec reported almost 75% turnout of voters despite the pre-election glitches that took place.

Then days after the Philippines’ first ever automated election, it was such an uplifting experience to see a different political landscape being carved for the country. It was also a relief to see good news running through TV, radio, newspaper and internet feeds, for once in my life I feel proud of the Philippines thus I cannot help but put into account some news stories here. It is not everyday that I got to read positive reports about the country much more about the dramatic change in the country’s political arena that was tainted with blood, violence and deceit. Presidential candidates who lost in the race like Gilbert Teodoro, Manuel Villar and Dick Gordon were gentleman enough to quickly accept defeat that showed their confidence on the integrity of the automated counting, a move that etched a new picture of well-cultured personalities. The United States, European Union and foreign community conveyed their congratulatory message to the Philippine Government and to all Filipinos for the peaceful and successful execution of the automated election. There is also a noticeable drop in election-related violence, as AFP and PNP reported. The positive pronouncements brought constructive advantage for Philippine business sector as peso gained strength over foreign currencies. The shortened counting process resulted in swift proclamation of winners in the local level which could be translated into savings in energy, effort and money as unnecessary expenses were considerably cut down which could have otherwise been spent if we were still into manual counting. So far, so good! Although we were all just starting into the process of assimilation in this computerized election, the fruit of everyone’s decent labor for poll automation has been ripe after all!

Rotten…the post-election scenario

The tons of garbage from the election, win or lose the candidates has the obligation to clean up their mess, it isn’t nice to see your names and faces hanging around just anywhere. To all losers, if you can’t be the winner in the election, just become a champion for the environment. And to all winning candidates, you now have every power to make this country a greener and cleaner place otherwise you also need to be thrown out of the garbage.

Electoral protest and claims of massive cheating - life is really like that when you are at the losing end, you always have this feeling of being deceived, you have every right to voice out your concern but please not to the point of being scandalous and violent, things can be resolved in a civilized manner, take some lessons from the three gentlemen Gibo, Manny and Dick.

Senate and Congress not yet starting with their official canvassing - Wow, isn’t that ironic? We all seem to hang in the balance because the two most important positions in the land are still yet to be proclaimed. Senate and Congress will convene only when they reach a quorum, if that is the case it only defeats the purpose of an automated election. So how long shall the nation wait? Just don’t make it too long and don’t make it too slow. Don’t make this country a laughing stock please.

Fear for constitutional crisis brought on by outgoing administration’s “overnight appointment” and incoming administration's refusal to recognize them. Well, well, well…she is still the president up to June 30, what can anyone do? She promised for a smooth transition of the presidency, let us just hold on to that promise and give her a graceful exit. Obviously she is designing a road for herself, whether people will follow her on that road will all depend on them.

Threat of impeachment against President-apparent Noynoy Aquino for refusing to recognize Renato Corona’s appointment as Chief Justice - Mr. Aquino hasn’t even seated yet in Malacanang for him to be threatened with impeachment. Give the guy a President’s welcome that he deserves, he was voted President by a large population, we all need to respect the voice of the people.

The outgoing president is making her late plans come into fruition for the remaining days of her term, whether that will be left to rot or be preserved will be up to the incoming president. A reminder to the incoming administration, please don’t forget to prune the rotten system and plant a new seed that will yield first-class produce.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Go Out and VOTE!

I just finished exercising my right to suffrage. Feel so good to have a successful process in the precinct where I am listed. My ballot was the 151st to be counted in the PCOS. It took me at least 20 minutes waiting in line outside the precinct room. My husband and I arrived at the precinct at around 9AM this morning. When we arrived, there were at least more than thirty people ahead of us waiting in line. Since there were at least five precincts clustered into one room, it really took a lot of waiting time thus you really need to put in mind that patience is a virtue. There was a piece of paper that was provided to us where we put our full name, date of birth, precinct number and sequence number (it is the sequence number opposite our name listed on the voter’s list displayed outside the precinct room). I think this was implemented by the BEI assigned in our precinct as they already anticipated a long line of voters and this step will make the validation process faster both for the BEI and the voter as it will become easier for the BEI to check one’s identity by the details that we provided. I think it was effective although it was not included in the COMELEC’s advertisement. I just heard in the news that the voting time has been extended until seven o’clock in the evening (7PM) as there were many voters in other precincts who have been waiting for more than three hours already, even presidential candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino was not spared from this since the PCOS machine assigned at their precinct was not working (took him almost 4 1/2 hours of waiting time, according to news report). Anyways, I hope that this first automated election will still turn out generally peaceful and successful. To those who have not voted yet or who have already been there at the precinct but lost the patience while waiting for their turn, I hope you will still give it a try. Just think that you are doing it for the next generation and for the future of the Philippines.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mothers Day Mommy

It’s mother's day again, i was thinking how to celebrate it with you. An answer came from my email's inbox, it was from Nuffnang about Johnson & Johnson’s “Baby your Mom” contest.  Why not? I haven't done that before as it never really crossed my mind.  You see even if I am already a mother myself, you are still positioned in my heart and mind in the same high pedestal where I put you some years ago.  The one who gave more than a world's worth just for us, your children. That is how I see you then and that's how I look up to you until now.  But wait, I was late for the contest as it is past their deadline of May 7 before midnight so I guess I will just borrow their idea. :-P
Those thoughts of treating you like a baby brought back happy memories of my childhood. Do you still remember how my face lit up at the sight of you whenever you arrive from work? I know you were aware how i looked forward to each dinner time as you always see to it that we were all together at the table and that's when we find time to share enriching conversation about our day's experience.  Did you feel the comfort I felt with each kiss and hug that you bestowed me?  Did you see the smile on my face whenever you make things possible that I thought impossible? Our weekly stroll in the then famed downtown of Avenida Rizal or our leisure getaway to the park or fine dining at a restaurant that I wished it was always weekend just to have more time with you somehow did the trick to make up for all the lost time we were supposed to spend together. The surprise gifts and sumptuous meal you prepared to make each occasions we shared truly memorable.  Yes, those simple gestures and priceless moments summarized everything on how I enjoyed my life with you as your precious little baby. 

Now it is time for me to return all those privileges to you. I know that years have taken the vigor and vitality in you, your hands and feet might be trembling now or your vision might have diminished a little. You might have forgotten some of our precious moments together so I intend to be your hands, feet and eyes to relive those moments with you.  I know how you appreciate each day that I fetch you in the same manner that you brought happiness to me on rare occasion that you find time off from work to fetch me or accompany me in school.  But I think I need to match your interest in going to the mall each time you feel like it and not let you hang around solo in the same way you accompanied me in all those leisure walks that we had when I was little.  So I promise to put an extra effort and time for that. And wait, we shouldn't miss a dinner together in a fine-dining restaurant although I know you wouldn't agree with this because you still look after me not to spend money so lavishly. But don't worry mom, you have taught me well.  And besides, it is just alright to spend for someone as precious as you are. I know how you missed us so dearly, though you have accepted the fact that time will come when it would be just you and dad together after we all got married.  I shall make you feel those moments of togetherness as similar as how we get together on a weekend only this time it gets happier with all your grandchildren.
And I shall not forget to thank you for all the years that you shared with me, with my siblings, with dad and also for sharing the love with my husband and my children.  I love you Mom and Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Philippine Automated Election: Important Pointers for Voters

Here are just some pointers to help you out in the coming election, you can share it with your friends and relatives or have this printed and share to those who do not have access to the internet so they may be able to know the process for the coming May 10 automated election.

Before the election:
1. It will be more convenient if you have your registration and precinct validated before the day of the election, you can have it checked online using the COMELEC’s precinct finder. ;-) Just in case the online precinct finder does not have your record but you are sure that you are a registered voter, COMELEC usually send mail containing the voter's precinct details and sample ballot before the election day but if you fail to receive it, better coordinate with your barangay officials, or on the day of the election you can go to the clustered precinct that is nearest to your residence and check the voter's list.

2. It helps to be prepared so have a list of your preferred candidates, that way you will not take so much time inside the voting booth and also, you will not miss anyone you wish to elect or vote beyond the allowed number of official for each position. You can check the official list of candidates at the Comelec's website.

3. Markers that will be used for shading the ballot will be provided to you but you may bring your own black ballpoint pen or marker for your own use (only in case those markers cannot be relied on, we will never know). There is an available sample shading ballot which you can download for practice purpose. 

On election day:
1. Precincts are expected to be opened from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM, just be responsible enough to come early and not minutes before the closing time. ;-) Maybe you should bring water to drink and fan to cool you down, just in case you get stuck at the waiting line (the weather is just too unbearably hot, be cautious of heat stroke). 

2. If you haven't used the online precinct finder, there is a voters' list conspicuously displayed outside each clustered precinct where you can check your name. If you did not find your name on this list, the Board of Election Inspector (BEI) also has a copy of the Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL), you can still ask the BEI and check your name using the BEI's copy (as according to COMELEC, there is a probability that the copy of the BEI is more complete and updated than the list displayed outside the precinct). You might not find your name on the voters list if you have been deactivated for not voting for two consecutive elections and for some other reasons.

3.  An orientation will be provided to you while waiting for your turn to get inside the polling precinct, you may skip the orientation if you already know what to do, you shall be allowed inside the polling precinct once there is an available slot (there is a maximum number of voters allowed inside the polling place, each voters might spend less than 10 minutes to complete the voting process so it should not take that long) 

4. Present a valid ID to prove your identity to the BEI, after checking your name and affixing your signature, the BEI will give you the ballot, the secrecy folder and the marking pen. It is your right to check the ballot that will be given to you, ensure that it is free from any ink smudges or dirt, the bar codes should be properly printed (colored black, not gray) as dirty, crumpled or improperly printed ballot will surely be rejected by the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machine and your vote will not be counted. So handle your ballot with care, ensure that you have clean hands, too. Ask immediately for replacement (prior to filling it out) if the one given to you does not pass your own QA (quality assurance) since BEI will not give you another ballot if you already shaded it and it was rejected by the PCOS (that means goodbye to your votes). Check also if the marker that will be given to you is functioning well as ink smudges on your ballot may cause your votes to be rejected by the PCOS.

5. If the ballot and the marker that were given to you passed your QA, you may start voting. Fully shade the oval beside the names of your preferred candidates/political party. Be warned that it is prohibited to use cellphones and take pictures of your ballot during the voting proper (as you might get accused for vote-buying). Check out the other prohibitions at the COMELEC’s website.

6. Once you are through filling out the ballot, approach the PCOS machine and insert properly your ballot in the entry slot. Don't worry as there are people from the BEI who shall monitor and assist you in using the PCOS. Wait until the ballot is dropped into the ballot box, the PCOS will display a message if your ballot was successfully accepted or not. If your ballot was rejected, your votes will not be counted (there is nothing you can do about it :( that is the sad news). The BEI shall include it in the minutes and shall mark your ballot accordingly.

7. Whether you have voted successfully or not, you shall return the ballot secrecy folder and marking pen to the BEI who shall apply an indelible ink on your right forefinger nail (or any other nail if you have no forefinger).

8. You shall then affix your thumb mark on the EDCVL (Election Day Computerized Voters List).

9. Once you are through, leave the polling place to give chance to others waiting in line.

There you go, it helps to be an informed voter, and since this is the first time that we will be doing this automated election, don't forget to bring a lot of patience, vigilance and wisdom with you.

Here are essential links which could be of good use to you.
Comelec's Precint Finder -
List of Official Candidates -
sample shading ballot -