In a few days, millions of Filipinos will troop to their respective precincts to vote for the next President of the Republic of the Philippines.
I will join them not as a voter, but as an observer, as I have not been a registered voter since Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago ran for President against former President Fidel V. Ramos. This is a choice–and an act of protest against an election system that is broken.
I will be volunteering as an official watcher, making sure everything is in order in one of thousands of precincts that I will be assigned.
For years, I have been an observer, albeit a participant or a member of the electoral process. I volunteered several times as a third member of Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), as they are called. These BEIs are often public school teachers mandated to assist millions voters in their precincts. BEIs are compensated for their service.
Later, as a member of a news organization, I was again an observer but more to document what was happening for a news website. I was assigned to follow politicians around the country, as they campaigned. I was among those young journalists jostling for a position to get an interview with a popular actor turned presidential candidate who later died after he lost to an alleged massive cheating in our Philippine elections in 2004.
Then, I progressed to running an election website along with a team of Internet-only journalists for an a pioneering Internet brand in the world, which won accolades within this Internet company.
In the next few days, I will be back as an observer from a precinct to ensure that the May 9, 2016 polls will be clean, fair, and peaceful. *Crossing my fingers*
Some people and friends do ask me why am I NOT using my Constitutional right to vote for the next President.
It is a choice that I have made because for years, I have seen how our Philippine elections were manipulated (i.e. 2004) by the very people who were appointed to make sure each vote is counted. I have covered news and reported some incidents of vote-buying, intimidation, and massive cheating that led to questionable results. In this country, there are NO losers. Only political candidates who always cry foul, alleging they were cheated.
I was assigned to an institution for years that we call the Commission on Elections. I followed this institutions’ officials, including one chairman who was forced to resign after he was implicated in a government deal that involved a foreign company hoping to land a major technology project worth billions of pesos. I reported on a poll official who disappeared after he was linked to a shocking zero-vote in a province that was venue of a massacre involving journalists who was part of a convoy following a supposed political rival of a powerful incumbent.
Prior to the invention of social media, I reported on a video showing gun-totting men caught who succeeded in scaring off voters from entering polling precincts in one southern town in the Philippines.
I may be called jaded by saying that I’m not a registered voter. But I am not alone. There are a couple of friends who are also not registered–and if they are, they’re not sure whom to vote.
Again, this is a choice not to vote. But I’m devoting my time on election day to ensure we have an honest, clean, and yes, peaceful elections on May 9.
Here’s to an honest & clean elections on May 9.