I went to my designated Cebu City voting precinct at the Ramon Duterte Memorial High School in Guadalupe at around 9:30 that morning with great anticipation and some concerns.
Knowing how bloody elections in the Philippines could be, and hearing all sorts of doomsday scenarios that might happen during the May 2010 elections, a balikbayan could not help but be a bit anxious, in spite of the fact that I have been visiting Manila and Cebu four to five times a year. But my greater fear was actually how the national elections in the general would go and how the people would vote in this crucial and pivotal juncture in our nation’s history.
On our way to the polling place, my friends, Inday and Jimmy Yap and their daughter, Chris, took me to the office of Barangay Captain Jing Jing Faelnar to say hello.
I was surprised to be greeted by a fiesta-like atmosphere, with colorful banners roofing the streets, bright posters on the walls, and jubilant people, some wearing their candidates’ emblems, merrily walking with no apparent care, CIMPEL-PPCRV poll helpers courteously assisting and directing the crowd. All this gave me a sense of reassurance that the day would go well. I suddenly felt I was going to a festive celebration instead of to a “potentially dangerous” polling area.
The huge turnout was most refreshing. The active young voters dominated the scene. One wore a yellow shirt, at the back of which said “Kung walang CORRUPT, walang MAHIRAP.” There were seniors, who could barely walk, disabled individuals, some with a cane, a couple in wheelchair, others practically carried by a family member, patiently waiting, braving the extreme heat, a truly inspiring vision of hope for our country. I then realized that flying across the oceans to vote was no match to their sacrifices and determination. They obviously believed that the future of the Philippines was in the hands of the people, and that every vote counted.
By this time, I was more inspired than fearful. Knowing the Cebuanos the past 14 years helped a lot in allaying my security concerns, but not my greater fear.
As a person who loves electronic gadgets, and one who has been voting in the United States, I was truly fascinated by this first automated voting in the Philippines. I was glad to be a part of it. I even took a picture of my completed ballot zipping into the PCOS machine, as a souvenir of my participation in this historic event in our country’s history.
Although there were reports of glitches in some PCOS machines around the country, the incidents, according to the experts, were within the industry statistical standard of aberration. The early returns alone were worth the high cost of automation and all the collateral problems that went with it at this initial abrupt trial.
The early concessions made by the candidates who lost, led by Manny Villar, followed by the others, and the absence of allegations about cheating and other electoral fraud, which are firsts in the political history of the Philippines, were also attributable to, and side benefits from, the automated elections. While this electronic system was far from perfect, it certainly was one thousand fold better than the old manual counting method. In spite of the glitches, automation seemed to have brought out the best in people. It has certainly separated mice and boys from men.
Overall, this 2010 national elections in the Philippines will go down in history as a most peaceful and most efficient elections yet compared to those in the past half a century or so. It just proves that the Filipinos, even the politicians, can be disciplined and be magnanimous, if given a system that is honest, superior, credible, and reliable.
However, finger-pointing and blaming will still continue. This time, complaints will be directed to the machines instead of to the opponents. Charges of cheating will be replaced by cries of electronic errors and malfunction. But even this is a step forward. It is easier to adjust or repair machines, or install new valuable data and added security features in them, than to make honest men out of crooks and plunderers.
The same logic and wisdom obviously explain why Noynoy, in spite of all the malicious allegations and personal insults hurled at him during the campaign, came away with a magnificent overwhelming majority. Indeed, “We, the People,” have spoken. And have spoken wisely. At least, those who chose our next president. In other areas, we have yet to learn to be smarter and wiser.
As the Convenor of the Las Vegas Chapter of the US Pinoys for Noy-Mar, I am most gratified by the overall orderliness, smoothness, and efficiency of the voting, counting, and canvassing of the people’s mandate. Noynoy Aquino’s landslide victory was a wonderful icing on the cake, an added bonus for all the supporters of good governance and for the country as a whole.
As an anti-corruption candidate, Honest Noy is clearly the prescription the Philippines needs to eradicate the pervasive cancer of corruption among our government officials, who have plundered and destroyed the nation, and have robbed the Filipinos of their dignity, self-respect, hope, and dream, as a people and as a nation. But Noynoy, alone, cannot perform the miracle. He needs all the help he can muster from all of us. And, certainly, six years won’t be enough to solve the country’s woes.
As his own father, Ninoy, stated during one of my visits with them in Boston in 1981, “Primo, the massive culture of corruption in the Philippine government will take decades to eradicate.”
While the mission is impossible to achieve overnight, the Filipinos, this time under the leadership of Noynoy, can at least start and take the first courageous step of rooting out corruption in the government and charter a nobler course for the Philippines.
Hopefully, Noynoy’s honesty will become so contagious as to infect everyone in all the branches of the government and every citizen of the country. This will certainly be a welcome fundamental change.
I came back to Cebu with some anxieties and carrying a chronic grudge against the crooks in our government. I am flying back to the United State greatly inspired and optimistic that The Winds of Change will soon be upon the Philippines. More than ever before, I now look at the future of my native land with a greater hope in my heart that we can now start rebuilding our country in earnest and transform it into a nation with social justice, dignity, peace, prosperity, honor, and pride.
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