Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why didn't I vote?

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a Brit named Mike, a rather geeky engineer who introduced me to South American music and an instrument called the xampodium. That was way back in 1994, and in one of our talks, we ended up discussing Philippine politics. One of the bits of wisdom I walked away with from that discussion was that "people who don't vote deserve what they get." Or was it, "people who don't vote get what they deserve?" I forget exactly, but the point Mike got across was that voting is some sort of sacred privilege; the cornerstone upon which a working democracy is founded. Since that point in time, I have been conscientious about voting in every election. Mike, the geeky Brit engineer, had taught this wild-eyed Filipino a very important lesson."

"That's the reason they're called lessons... because they lessen from day to day." -- Lewis Carroll

Just a couple of weeks ago we had national and local elections here. And the fellow who learned that voting was a sacred privilege, that guy who vowed to have his vote counted, well, he didn't vote. He didn't even care!

I dunno, man. I just didn't feel it. I guess I'm tired of hearing the same old people promise the same old sun, moon, and stars, and deliver the same old fat zero. But, boy, did I get it from my daughter, and from my friends and colleagues who are still passionate and hopeful about the Philippine electoral process. I understand their passion. I've lived that passion until now. I haven't abandoned my belief in the electoral process as a cornerstone of a democratic society.

In fact, there was nothing wrong with the last elections. It was clean, it was orderly, it worked. My issues lie after the vote. It's one thing to cast your vote. But having your vote counted is quite another matter.

I believe that in this country, the voting population has somewhat evolved and matured, so much so that voters are now capable of selecting political candidates based on their values, merits, and capabilities. But at the same time, the infrastructure and management side of the election process remain in the dark ages, virtually assuring that the sacred votes will be perverted in pursuit of someone or other's agenda.

Votes here are still canvassed and tabulated by hand. Election returns are hand-carried from the precincts, many of these in the far-flung barrios where malaria cases outnumber telephones, to the designated election centers, at tremendous risk to those assigned to the task. All throughout the process there are many, many, many opportunities to cheat. The Commission on Elections has sat on the whatever modernization initiatives there are. Politicians continue to bribe, steal, threaten, harass, murder their way to insure their own victories. In the 21st century, our electoral process is only a minor improvement from how things were when the concept of suffrage was just beginning to take root. It's all a big, bad joke!

So there. Rather than support what I feel is a travesty upon my democratic right to have my voice heard through elections, I choose not to take part in a circus that has no concern at all for what I or anyone else believes. A very good friend of mine has even suggested that we Filipinos should protest the sloppy election procedure by not voting and causing a failure of these elections. Maybe then, the knuckleheads who run the Commission on Elections will be forced to act on modernizing the polls. I agree with him, and that's precisely the path I have chosen to take.

Dream on...

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