NOTHING is impossible.
Today, the 54,363,844 voters registered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are expected to troop to the country’s 92,509 clustered precincts.
Assuming a 100-percent voter turnout, more than 54 million Filipinos share the stake to vote for the 16th president of the country, as well as other officials at the national and local levels.
More importantly, more than 54 million Filipinos have a personal responsibility to respect and protect his or her vote; thus, ensuring a clean and fair elections and an orderly transition of power.
Today is a reminder that beyond partisan politics and candidates, the election is about institutionalizing the best interests of all Filipinos.
Listen to conscience
“Vote-buying and -selling are rampant,” admits Romeo Canega in a Philippine Daily Inquirer article published on May 8. “It’s a culture that is hard to break, but change happens in small steps.”
Canega is one of 800 residents of the province of Oriental Mindoro who volunteer for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). A farmer and entrepreneur, Canega turned down an offer of P50,000 to become a candidate’s coordinator in the town of Naujan.
The PPCRV and volunteers espouse a nationwide campaign to advocate for “One Good Vote.” Launched last year, the “One Good Vote” campaign urges voters, especially those casting their vote for the first time, to be guided by the “three Ks” of responsible voting, which stand for character (“karakter”), ability (“kakayahan”), and experience (“kasanayan”).
The PPCRV and its Cebu counterparts and partners, such as the C-Cimpel (Cebu-Citizens’ Involvement and Maturation in People’s Empowerment and Liberation) and the Dilaab Foundation, target 86 sitios nationwide because vote-buying has become widespread in entire villages.
In many places, the ballot is not only bartered for money but even grocery and household items like basins and water dippers (“tabo”), attested a Comelec official quoted in a Philippine Star report published on May 8.
The Dilaab Foundation emphasizes the importance of the individual conscience in upholding the sanctity of the ballot.
According to a March 4 report in Sun.Star Cebu, the Dilaab campaign, “I vote good,” urges that “the voter and the candidate should have the moral courage to choose good and reject evil, even the lesser evil”.
Care for consequences
While poverty may make voters at the grassroots vulnerable to vote-buying, materialism and cynicism also drive voters in the city to succumb to the culture of dirty politics.
According to reports, as much as P5,000 is offered for a ballot. Comelec officials said that preserving the secrecy of the
ballot is one concrete step to break the vote-buying culture.
A voter should verify that the vote he or she cast was accurately recorded by the vote counting machine through the printed voter’s receipt. After reviewing the receipt, a voter must fold and drop the receipt in a receptacle before leaving the precinct. Should there be any error in the receipt, a voter must immediately raise a complaint with the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI).
It is also an election offense for a voter to take “ballot selfies,” warns a Sun.Star Cebu public service ad. Inside the polling place, a voter must refrain from using a digital camera or cell phone.
The BEI and the Comelec must also ensure that the voters’ receipts will not be taken out of the polling precincts. If placed in the wrong hands, the receipts are “the best evidence” to facilitate that dirty money will exchange hands.
An older but still reliable mechanism to ensure clean elections is the indelible ink marking the index finger to prove that a voter has cast his or ballot; thus, preventing multiple voting and flying voters.
However, external measures to preserve the sanctity of the ballot cannot compare with the power of a clean conscience.
As first-time voter Patricia Candaza, 18 and a Mass Communication freshman at the University of the Philippines Cebu, said in her essay, posted by Rappler on May 7: “We are all Filipino citizens, our loyalty doesn’t belong to our candidate, it belongs to our country—the Philippines.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 09, 2016.
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