New Voter’s New Year’s Resolutions
EARLIER this week, the voter registration period for 2020 drew to a close with the needle not quite making it to a million registrants, despite roughly three months of voter registration.
EARLIER this week, the voter registration period for 2020 drew to a close with the needle not quite making it to a million registrants, despite roughly three months of voter registration.
It’s been a hell of a year.
On October 23, 2020, it was reported that the Chair of the Senate Electoral Reforms and Peoples’ Participation, had said that the proposal for the establishment of a hybrid election system had to be placed on the back burner after the Covid-19 pandemic changed the priorities of the government and lawmakers. Earlier this week, with the filing of Senate Bill 1950—entitled An act providing for the conduct of hybrid national, local, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections, through manual-automated voting, counting, canvassing, consolidation, and transmission, amending for the purpose Republic Act 8436, amended, and for other purposes—it would seem that hybrid elections are back on top of the agenda.
Last week, the Commission on Elections quietly relaunched iRehistro—the web site where you can supply the Comelec with your information by answering a series of questions, and print it out as a completed voter registration application form. And after you do that, you can also book an appointment with the Comelec office where you intend to register, without having to use a different program or application.
Picture this: There we all were at the National Canvassing Center, keeping track of the incoming results from the various precincts nationwide, less than six hours from the close of voting on election day, when suddenly, someone points out that the news outlets had gone dark. We checked the incoming streams of election data and everything was going smoothly, but flicking through the channels on television showed that the media reports of partial and unofficial reports had all but frozen. The transparency server was having problems.
The 2019 National and Local Elections were considered to be among the most credible elections ever held in the Philippines, bar none. And yet, hanging like a cloud over that achievement are the seven hours on election night, during which media outlets stopped updating their reports of election results. With our penchant for coming up with catch labels for these things, that period of time has since come to be known as the 7-hour glitch. And to this day, those three words—“seven-hour glitch”—are used as a snappy retort intended to negate any notion that elections in the Philippines could be trusted.
Last week, we joined the rest of the world in celebrating the Unesco Global Media and Information Literacy Week—a celebration aimed at promoting the theme “Resisting Disinfodemic: Media and Information Literacy for everyone and, by everyone.”
In 2019, with more than 62 million people voting or a voter turnout of better than 75 percent, the elections achieved a credibility rating in the 80s, one of the highest on record. The Filipino nation—by and large—accepted the outcome of the elections as the true will of the people. In no small measure was that triumph due to the determination of millions of people who trooped to the polling places, stood shoulder to shoulder even in inclement weather, and cast their ballots. And of those millions, 22,083,529 came from among your ranks.
Earlier this week, the House of Representatives was convulsed by the Speakership question, leaving the fate of the country’s 2021 budget—which includes the budget for the Comelec’s preparations for the 2022 National and Local Elections—hanging in the balance. It was a teaching moment, especially for the approximately 4 million new people expected to join the ranks of the enfranchised.
The President and the First Lady of the United States both tested positive for Covid-19 last week. On the heels of that announcement came news of others who caught the virus as well: Trump’s campaign manager, the President’s Communications Director, the President’s Counsellor, and the Chair of the Republican National Committee—all of whom have had frequent contact with each other because of the ongoing Presidential campaign. As of this writing, and five days after Trump got infected, it’s been reported that Stephen Miller—a Trump senior policy adviser—also tested positive. This brings the number of people in this White House outbreak to 10—10 people who, immediately prior to being tested, had been working closely with Trump on public events that took place over that weekend—the first presidential debates and the announcement of the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice. Both these events are rightly characterized as being integral components of Trump’s reelection campaign.
I’m actually thankful that the idea was floated when it was. Better by far to have ideas like this out in the open where they can be addressed squarely, than to have them festering unnoticed in secret, gathering strength and momentum away from the glare of public scrutiny. So, I am genuinely grateful that an elected official, albeit in a roundabout way, suggested that we do away with the coming national and local elections because, you know, pandemic.
With voter registration in its third week, the channels we use for communicating with the public have been pretty active. The “Ask Comelec” group on Facebook has never been busier and—with more and more people sharing their first-hand experiences with actual voter registration—more helpful. And since this pandemic has all but eliminated the distinction between work and home life, answering questions from the public has become an all-day and all-night concern for me and my colleagues in the Education and Information Department of the Comelec.
Last week, the Comelec offices in NCR processed more than 6,000 applications—everything from the registration of new voters to reinstatement in the list of voters, a total of 12 separate application categories in all.
Eighty years ago this month, the determination to have an independent Commission on Elections in the Philippines proved to be unwilling to keep to the slow pace of the US Congress. Too impatient to wait for Congressional approval of the Constitutional Amendment that would later enshrine the independent electoral management body in our Charter, the fledgling National Assembly of the Philippines enacted a law—Commonwealth Act 607—that created a Commission on Elections that would be everything that they envisioned an independent and impartial election management body would be.
Voter Registration resumes on September 1, 2020—five days from now. If you just turned 18, then you can register as a new voter; if you used to vote somewhere else but want to vote in a different place in 2022, then put in for a transfer to where you want to vote. In both cases, voter registration will be in-person and it will be conducted only in the Comelec office, in your area.
IN 2012, the Comelec made the decision to discontinue the issuance of Voter IDs, in anticipation of the arrival of the new National ID system. And although the National ID still hasn’t been launched (the whole idea got a boost during the early days of the lockdowns, but I haven’t heard much about it since), the Comelec still does not issue new Voter IDs.
Last Tuesday, at around noon, I saw a question pop up on the group chat of the Comelec beat reporters, asking me if it was true that former Chairman Sixto Brillantes had passed away. Within minutes after that first query, I was inundated by calls, texts, e-mails, instant messages, and comments on my various social-media platforms, all asking me the exact same thing. It turns out that yes, at 11:08 that morning, Chair Brillantes had lost his battle with Covid-19. He would have been 81 on August 14.
I was one of those impatient for National Capital Region to slip into modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and then general community quarantine; I was one of those who went huzzah, when GCQ finally happened; and yes, I was also one of those dreading a return to stricter grades of Q. But with the seemingly uncontrolled increase of Covid-19 positive cases, I’m also thinking that we might actually need a time-out.
The Omnibus Election Code, in Section 69, gives the Commission on Election (Comelec) the power to, of its own initiative or upon petition, “refuse to give due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy if it is shown that said certificate has been filed to put the election process in mockery or disrepute or to cause confusion among the voters by the similarity of the names of the registered candidates or by other circumstances or acts which clearly demonstrate that the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office for which the certificate of candidacy has been filed and thus prevent a faithful determination of the true will of the electorate.”
With this virus not going anywhere anytime soon, it has become an absolute necessity for everyone to imagine all the different ways things will have to change. In a way, we’ve all been forced to become futurists, except that the future we’re envisioning isn’t going to come in a hundred years but, in many cases, as soon as tomorrow. Or, in the case of the Presidential elections, 2022.
The struggle to win votes in the Philippines remains largely an in-person affair, where politicians routinely get mobbed by supporters. Social distancing, after all, is a brand-new concept to the typical Filipino. With the coronavirus on the loose, however, things have to be drastically different. For starters, the precautionary measures we are now very familiar with—social distancing, the wearing of face coverings, and frequent hand hygiene—will inevitably put a damper on traditional forms of in-person campaigning.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has been in the news lately, except that for the most part, it’s not the kind of news anyone would be terribly happy about: first, there was the talk of fake voter IDs emerging once again; and second, a rather disappointing development about something that a lot of people had been looking forward to.
ON June 1, 2020, I created the Facebook Group called “Ask Comelec” (https://facebook.com/groups/askcomelec) as a response to the need to make online alternatives available to the general public eager to see to their voter registrations. The problem was that, with the Comelec deploying only skeleton work forces, my Department—the Education and Information Department—which is responsible for fielding queries from the public, wasn’t particularly well-equipped to handle telephone inquiries. And so, we turned to the one online platform that we were reasonably sure everyone had some access to—either directly or through friends and family.
Often, when people are reminded to vote—not told who to vote for, but simply reminded to exercise their franchise —they react with a great deal of skepticism. Voting doesn’t matter, some say, or that their votes won’t count anyway so why should they bother. Not surprising, yes, but still incredibly saddening and, ultimately, wrong.
One of the saddest, but funniest, things I’ve heard recently was the story of a Barangay Chairman who was so exhausted from the work thrust upon him by the quarantine that he blurted out, “If I had known that being Punong Barangay was going to be this much work, I would never have run!”
Since Monday, June 1, 2020, the Commission on Elections has been undergoing a phased resumption of its services to the public. For now, the focus is on getting the personnel and the physical offices of the Comelec ready to receive the public. In all offices, for example, only skeleton work forces, accounting for a mere fraction of the normal work force, report for duty. While this is in part meant to ensure the safety of at-risk employees, the use of skeleton work forces is primarily intended to reduce the number of people in the office at any one time; fewer people, fewer opportunities for transmission of the virus. Interestingly, there are Comelec offices that normally only have two people working in them—the Election Officer and the Election Assistant. In those cases, the need to reopen the Office and resume service to the public becomes paramount.
Today is Flag Day, marking the moment in 1898, when the Philippine flag was first flown by the Philippine Revolutionary Army after trouncing Spanish forces in the Battle of Alapan. Imagine that for a moment, but know that the flag you’re imagining is probably not the one that was unfurled on that field of victory.
Despite the threat of Covid-19, the National and Local Elections of 2022—a Presidential race, in case that little fact has slipped your mind—will most likely still involve more than 45 million voters, crowding into less than 100,000 polling places nationwide. Even two years down the road, those are still ideal conditions for a coronavirus super-spreader scenario.
There is a certain comfort in thinking that we still have about two years to go before the national and local elections. It may not be realistic to think that we’ll be completely rid of the coronavirus by then, but at least, we’ll have enough time to adequately prepare for the unique challenges posed by holding elections while the coronavirus is running rampant.
BY the time voter registration starts up again, we will have lost at least three months out of the registration period scheduled to run throughout the rest of 2020, all the way up to September 2021. With the record of the early days averaging between 80,000 to 100,000 transactions per week—including new registrations, reactivation, changes of name and so on—we can project that about a million voter registration related transactions didn’t take place because of the Comelec’s timely response to the threat of Covid-19.
South Korea conducted elections while the pandemic was raging and managed to do it successfully. With more than two years to go before our own national and local elections, it would be incredibly defeatist to say that we can’t do the same and that the polls should be postponed. Defeatist and anti-democracy.
Since the quarantine was declared all over Luzon, nearly everyone has had something to complain about. We are a tactile species after all—we learn more from touching things than from merely looking at them; we are a social species—we crave connection and we wither in isolation; we are a joyful people—we celebrate life, not just survive it. A world that deliberately prevents us from being these things will inevitably cause unhappiness. And yet, regardless of how well (or how poorly) we’ve taken to this quarantine, the great mass of Filipinos—while being almost universally miserable—can still be divided into two sharply differing categories: those who comply with the various restrictions imposed by the government, and those who do not.
Last March 6, I tweeted “TikTok will be a significant platform for the 2022 National and Local Elections.” The tweet elicited a lot of reactions, ranging from concurrence to violent disagreement; from mild amusement to personal attacks leveled at me for supposedly encouraging this nonsense when I should be suppressing it. Fast forward to earlier this week when I received an already much shared TikTok video of a politician doing a dance. And it’s still only 2020.
The killer virus raging throughout the country like an uncontrollable fire brings prominence to another aspect of the work the Commission on Elections does: Voter Education. As the nation groans under the burden of this prolonged extreme community quarantine, the most critical voter education question is: how are our elected officials performing, and how did I—as a voter—contribute to that performance?
AN article I recently read pointed out that great humanitarian tragedies have given us some of our most iconic literature. From the Great Depression, for example, emerged the Grapes of Wrath; the bubonic plague kept Giovanni Boccaccio homebound and writing the Decameron; and it is widely believed that Albert Camus’s The Plague was based on a cholera epidemic. Most notably, there is a compelling case to be made for the Bard—William Shakespeare—writing King Lear while in quarantine.
BY the time you read this, it will have been five days since the start of the government’s mandated isolation of Metro Manila; four days since the massive traffic jams created by the checkpoints; three days since all public transport on the island of Luzon ground to a halt due to the declaration of an “enhanced quarantine;” and a full 10 days since the Commission on Elections undertook its own social distancing measure (although we didn’t know what to call it at the time) of suspending voter registration for the time being.
COVID-19 is highly survivable. Chinese authorities have reported fatality rates as high as 2.3 percent. Other experts, however, citing the mildness of the disease and the relatively high probability that people recover from it without ever seeking or receiving medical treatment, claim that the fatality rate is probably closer to just a fraction of 1 percent.
The Statement of Contributions and Expenditures, or SOCE, is in the news again as the coverage of the issue du jour expands into new areas, following the recent Senate hearing on the matter.
Like just about everyone else, I’ve been following the developments in the case of that broadcasting giant very closely. Considering public pronouncements made by the main players in this unfolding saga, I knew it was just a matter of time before the conversation meandered its way into my neck of the woods. And, sure enough, last Monday, it did.
When I was growing up, I couldn’t get enough of reading. I read everything I could get my hands on: from my mom’s old med school textbooks to back issues of the National Geographic Magazine; from my dad’s paperback novels to Reader’s Digests; from the newspapers to the backs of shampoo bottles. I read it all, even when I had no idea what I was reading, I read them all.
Unlike the Philippines, where only a handful of people get to actually decide who runs for office, political candidates in the United States are chosen via a popular vote. This is what happened last week when members of the Democratic Party gathered in caucuses and cast ballots to determine which among the Democratic contenders would get the most number of votes and, therefore—after all the other States have similarly voted—go on to become the Democratic candidate for President. Obviously, this was a significant and truly memorable political event. Sadly, it will probably be remembered more as an app-ocalyptic disaster.
The Commission on Elections’ indefatigable Senior Commissioner Rowena V. Guanzon once again started conversations all over the place when she tweeted: “four suppliers of Mobile App voting program/system offered to conduct a test run for @Comelec. If successful we will ask Congress to pass a law.” The Comelec’s march toward modernity clearly didn’t end when it successfully introduced the automated election system in 2010.
At the core of our democratic life is the commitment to the idea that the people have the sovereign right to govern the people. The whole institution of the government, therefore, is simply a creation of the people—a convenient framework that allows those freely chosen by the people to effectively give life to the mandate they have received (at the risk of sounding repetitive) from the people.
With less than two months to go, we should all be asking each other if we’ve decided who we’re going to vote for. At the very least, you should already be starting to get into that critical frame of mind where you’re examining the candidates and their platforms to find the right one for you. And no, I don’t mean “critical” in the sense of being out to find fault, i.e., intent on criticizing; but critical in the sense of being objective and analytical in the process of forming judgments.
One of the biggest failings of voter education as it is currently practiced by most everyone is that it’s too focused on the personality of the candidates. These guides, for example, invariably ask the voter questions that aim to describe the character and skills of the candidate: Is the candidate a good, moral person? Is the candidate well educated? Does the candidate have a good track record? Is the candidate well-meaning and God-fearing?
Here are a few things every voter—new voters especially—need to know.
Are the youth voting as advocates of issues? Or are they simply being mobilized to fulfill the ambitions of others? Are they well informed? Or have they simply been fed a steady diet of algorithm-driven nonsense designed to predispose them to supporting this or that candidate? Are they intelligent members of society exercising their right to determine their fate? Or have they been reduced to shambling hordes of zombies blindly marching to cliff’s edge?
Much has been said of the Commission on Election’s recent foray into establishing a rudimentary regulatory framework for the use of social media in the coming midterm elections. The woefully—and sometimes willfully—uninformed trumpet the fear that the Comelec’s social media “regulations” curtail freedom of expression. Whether or not arising from a genuine misunderstanding of what these regulations actually are, these apprehensions are unfounded.
It’s a disturbing development. Starting from the 2010 elections, all the way to the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, we’d been seeing a definite downward trend in the number of election-related violent incidents—ERVIs—plaguing our democratic process. Even in barangay elections, which conventional wisdom tells us can often be more violent than national elections, we witnessed record-low levels of politically motivated violence, let alone killings. Since then, however, something seems to have changed.
Under the automation law, before the automated election system can be used in an electoral exercise, it has to undergo a source code review by an international certification entity that, to put it simply, checks out all the various components of the AES, to make sure it all functions as planned and that there are no malicious instructions embedded in the code. There are three of these components: the election management system (EMS), the vote counting machine, and the canvassing and consolidation system.
There are three ideas that a democratic society wouldn’t miss: the absence of term limits for elected officials, preferential voting rights for some and a two-party system.
Despite the breathless coverage given to the matter, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) isn’t looking to regulate social media per se. Campaigning will still be allowed online, and everybody can still post and share political content with practically no restriction. However, this doesn’t mean that the political online environment exists in a complete regulatory vacuum.
LAST weekend, I was at the Miag-ao campus of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV), talking about voter education to around 500 college freshmen. I was there at the invitation of the National Service Training Program (NSTP) director, who intends to send these bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young people out to every barangay of Miag-ao in order to bring voter education that much closer to the people who need it most.
“Ako ay Pilipino.” Yes, I am. I may not always talk or think like someone might expect a Filipino ought to, but I would never identify as any other nationality. I mean, sure, there might be significant economic benefits to becoming a citizen of another country, but what would it benefit me to gain the world and lose my soul? Ang dugo’y maharlika, yes, but really only in the metaphorical sense. What I do have, just like every Filipino—and in equal measure—is the natural dignity that comes from being human. I am neither better nor inferior to anyone.
AS recently as May of this year, the Civil Service Commission reiterated its warning that “no officer or employee in the civil service, as well as any member of the military, shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political activity, except to vote.” At the time, the CSC chairman emphasized that “civil servants are mandated by law to uphold political neutrality in the conduct of their duties even more during election season.”
A recent article in the New York Times recounts how the paper asked its readers to send in examples of election-related misinformation online. The Times’s readers responded, sending in more than 4,000 examples of misinformation from social-media feeds, text messaging apps and e-mail accounts. Reading through those examples, I felt a nauseating wave of déjà vu, as I recognized things that had been done here in 2016, and are currently being done in preparation for the midterm elections in 2019.
Just the other day, a friend of mine told me that she had her purse picked while she was talking to a drugstore clerk. I immediately remembered an incident that happened about four years ago, when my mom almost suffered the same fate. I dug around for the account that I wrote of that incident and thought—it’s not voter education, but it would be still be worth sharing.
IN 2012 the Commission on Elections ceased the production of voter identification cards, in anticipation of the creation of a National Identification System. Early discussions on the national ID indicated that it could be used as a voter ID. This potentially represented a radical change of Comelec philosophy from an earlier attempt to create a national ID, the Unified Multi-Purpose ID or UMID.
By the time this sees print, we should be on the second day of the period for filing certificates of candidacy for the 2019 midterm elections. The time to think about who you’re voting for is running out fast. Unfortunately, that decision—perhaps one of the most important you will ever face—isn’t easy to make, especially with so much collateral noise in the air. This makes it important for voters to take the time now to identify those issues that will frame the elections for them. And because elections are won by the greatest number of votes, it is equally important that individual voters are able to rally others to their causes; to reach out to the undecided and convince them that some things ought to be ignored, while others should be made an #electionissue.
One of the most reliable things in our political arena is that whenever there is a deadline for doing anything, there will immediately be an attempt to secure an extension. Always. It does not matter if it’s a recurring deadline, as is the case with voter registration where every registration period necessarily draws to a close at some point. Someone will still allege that the Commission on Elections is depriving unregistered people of their right to vote—sometimes even using language far less polite. Nor does it seem to matter that the Supreme Court itself has repeatedly upheld the Comelec’s authority to determine the end of the voter registration period. When the next voter registration period ends, the same tired old arguments are trotted out with clockwork regularity. In a sense, you’ve got to admire the tenacity, but at some point, you’d expect that settled issues would be allowed to rest, wouldn’t you?
INCLUDING today, there are eight days left for people to see to their voter registration status. Most will be first-time voters, a category that includes both those who are just turning 18 and those who are already older than that but who, for one reason or another, haven’t registered to vote yet.
There are five steps to responsible citizenry. The first is the awakening of the desire for things to be better than they are—the desire for change. This can happen at any time in our lives; it can happen more than once. There are people who come to this realization early, and there are those who come to it late; there are some who nurture this fire in their bellies for years, and there are others in whom the fire had gone out once, or twice, or more, but who have found reasons to rekindle their hopes for a better future. However you come to this point actually doesn’t matter much. What is important is that you’re here, and you believe in your heart that things around you—the way things are done, the way people think and speak, the direction being taken—are not the best versions of themselves, and that you have come to the decision to try to change that.
Timbre. The word has its origins in music, referring to the quality of a note that distinguishes it from another, even if the two have the same pitch and loudness. When a sound is described as being rich, or warm, or perhaps tinny, that’s a description of timbre. The word, however, has also been applied to politics for as long as I can remember. Specifically, it is used in discussions about people aspiring for the presidency, although the term can be used in conjunction with any elected office, like senator, for instance.
It seems only logical that in order to say you’ve moved on from something, you must have first had that thing happen to you. At the very least, you should have been around when that thing happened. How can you move on from something if you’ve never had a personal experience with that thing? That’s like saying I’ve moved on from caviar when I’ve never even tasted the stuff, or that I’ve gotten over my relationship with Natalie Portman when she doesn’t even know I exist. So, to say (or at least imply) that millennials—a very specific group of people who were born from around 1982 to 2002—have moved on from martial law is disingenuous at best, because that thing had already ended before they were even born. In fact, even if we were to say that the millennial age range should actually be reckoned from 1980, it would still be wrong because, well, infants.
When the automation of elections was first conceived of, and the needed legislation passed, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was fully onboard with the idea. It was the consensus in the election management community that human intervention was the overarching weakness of the entire manual electoral process: from the wildly varying legibility of handwritten ballots, to the lack of any discernible standard in interpreting ballots during manual counting; from the error-prone vote recording technique of using stick marks, to the ease with which handwritten election returns could be fraudulently manufactured, the manual electoral process was so full of holes, everyone agreed that a drastic change had to happen.
Finally got a copy of Republic Act (RA) 11054 today (Thursday)—the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, or the OLBARMM (an acronym which, unfortunately, lacks the elegant simplicity of BOL). It is a massive document, going all the way up to Article XVIII, and covering a total of 109 Official Gazette pages.
ONE of the major thrusts of the Commission on Elections is the promotion of inclusivity in elections. This commitment seeks to ensure that our electoral exercises and procedures are more readily accessible to sectors of society who, while not being completely shut out of electoral processes, are nevertheless faced with challenges that make it more difficult for them, than it is for others, to participate in elections.
Every election advocacy group, every single time elections come rolling around, releases a set of criteria intended to describe the ideal candidate. Many times, these criteria are tailored to fit the predilections of whatever advocacy group is releasing it—a church-based group, for instance, would emphasize godliness, whereas a civic organization would probably underscore the need for community building credentials. But as helpful as these criteria may sometimes be, they almost always focus on suitability of the individual candidate. But even checking off all the boxes (a rarity in itself) won’t guarantee that a candidate will be a good public servant. To be honest, no such guarantee is possible anyway.
Right off the bat, the most obvious difference between the 1987 Constitution’s and the Bayanihan Federalism Charter’s Article on Suffrage is length. The former is all of two Sections long; the latter, a gargantuan eight. More than that, the Bayanihan Charter introduces several new ideas that are worth diving deep into. Take the draft Charter’s anti-dynasty provision as an example.
The draft of the Bayanihan Federalism Charter has been out—in one form or another—for more than a week now and the public reaction so far has been disappointingly muted. Considering that what’s at stake is the Basic Law—the one law that is considered written into every single statute, rule and regulation to ever be promulgated from the time of its ratification—the level of public discourse on the matter has been underwhelming, to say the least.
Late Wednesday a link to a document started getting passed around on social media. The document was supposed to be the draft of the new Constitution prepared by the Consultative Commission, for submission to the President. The spokesman of that Commission promptly disavowed the document but, as things happen on social media, that only drove more traffic to the document. As it turns out, the disavowed document contains provisions, which are, to say the least, radical departures from the way things are.
Election management isn’t a walk in the park. You are charged with enforcing rules that are deliberately designed to limit what candidates and political players can do. This can make election rules frustrating, and election rule enforcers, villains.
AS we close in on the 2019 national and local elections, the weaknesses of electoral system’s legal infrastructure are coming into sharper and sharper focus. To be perfectly frank, there are only so many variations to dura lex sed lex, that a person can say before it gets depressing. In any case, I am not a fan of the defeatism implicit in that old saw. If the law is harsh—or in some cases, hopelessly behind the times—one shouldn’t have to simply accept it as a given. Laws can be changed; election laws are no exception, and these three suggestions—which are my own, not the Commission on Elections’s (Comelec)—are as good a place as any to start a discussion on possible legislative solutions.
A post recently popped up on my social-media feed that basically tells the story of how a newly elected Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) official is supposed to have, without seeming provocation, disrespected a teacher.
AS both spokesman and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) director for Education and Information, there’s a lot of things that need doing. The entirety of what I aim to achieve, however, is greater than the sum of its parts. I educate, but the end isn’t just to share knowledge; I inform, but not just so people know when, where and how; I engage not simply for the sake of giving people someone to talk to in an otherwise monolithic institution. The outcome I pursue is the emergence of a voter for whom the very core foundations of electoral practice and norms are integral to their very lives.
With the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections over, the candidates have one last thing to do: submit their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) on or before June 13.
It might be counterintuitive, but there are times when the government becomes too efficient. When that happens, it is usually not the fault of the government, but of people—both those who form the government and those who are a part of the undifferentiated mass of the governed. When an idea comes along that captures the imagination of the people, the focus tends to be on the outcome, rather than the process of achieving the outcome.
Over the past three months, nearly all of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) resources and efforts have been directed at ensuring the success of the 2018 synchronized barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. It gives me great satisfaction to say now that all the work bore good fruit.
At the risk of repeating myself—as long as I’ve been writing about these things, I suppose it is inevitable that I would go over the same ground more than once or twice—here are the things you don’t need to do on election day, May 14, 2018.
HERE’S what I think.
There will be 20,632,642 Sangguniang Kabataan voters trooping to the polls next month. I estimate around 5 million of them will be first-time voters, including those aged 15 to 17 years old. For most—if not all—of them, this will be the first time they will see a ballot that is intended to be counted manually. To say that it will be a novel experience for them, however, is to barely scratch the surface.
Tomorrow, April 14, the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan election period will start. On the same day, the gun ban will commence, bringing with it—among other things—the cancellation of all permits to carry, mission orders, letters of instruction and other similar documents granting individuals the authority to carry and transport firearms out
of their homes and workplaces.
IN an order dated February 13, 2018, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal explicitly declared, “considering that the revision process ìs about to commence, the tribunal directs both protestant and protestee to observe the sub judice rule.”
Yes, that viral post about the Commission on Elections (Comelec) no longer issuing voter identification cards, for voters registered from 2012 to present, is fairly accurate: the Comelec has stopped issuing voter ID cards, post-2012.
1. There will be two different kinds of ballots used in the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections—the barangay ballot and the SK ballot.
In the voting booth, you’re all alone. There’s no one there holding your hand, guiding your pen—no one except what’s in your head and what’s in your heart. In those two places, you have the voices of the people you listen to; the words of the writers you read, and what you remember of the life you’d been living up to that point. These are the things that will push you in one way or the other, influence your choices, and guide you in bridging the gap between the tip of your pen and the surface of the ballot paper.
Word of the President’s desire to have the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections held, coming by way of his spokesman, is a welcome addition to the ongoing discussion about the fate of the village polls. Coming as it does, on the heels of renewed rumblings of postponement, the clear stand taken by the Chief Executive should quiet things down and finally give the public a respite from this back-and-forth that’s been going on since 2016. Now, we can focus on the more important business of getting voters ready to sensibly exercise their right of suffrage.
Thirty-two years ago today, Filipinos responded to the call for freedom, unwittingly coopting a planned coup d’état, and ending up dislodging a dictatorship.
So last week’s enthusiasm over the imminence of the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections (BSKE2018) now appears to have been more a matter of wishful thinking thing else. I jumped the gun, you might say, and engendered some expectations that should be managed more realistically. However, that episode did prompt someone to ask me whether I thought it was worth pushing through with the Sangguniang Kabataan elections in the first place, considering that the youth of today don’t seem particularly ready for the power that comes with being an elected official.
IT looks like the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are finally going to take place. Earlier this week, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño unequivocally declared “tuloy na tuloy na.” Although technically speaking, neither the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) nor the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can actually give that guarantee—the matter simply isn’t up to either institution to decide on—I expect that he has a better grasp of the political side of the question, so I’m going to take his word for it—the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections are on.
Earlier this week, the Commission on Elections resolved to push through with the 2018 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections in Mindanao, except in Marawi City where the polls will be postponed. The Comelec cited the prevailing conditions in Marawi City as the most critical consideration, seeing as how weeks of heavy fighting during the Maute occupation had all but decimated the city’s infrastructure, leaving practically no public structures that could be used for election purposes.
EARLIER this week, a legislator saw fit to “warn” the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against precipitately going forward with a plebiscite on Charter change. Puzzling. And it raises interesting questions. Why warn the Comelec? But, more important, from the voter education point of view, does the Comelec call for a plebiscite on a constitutional amendment or revision on its own initiative? Can it even do that?
When it rains, it pours. From not having any idea what the proposed changes to the 1987 Constitution would be, we are now deluged by at least three separate versions of the planned amendments. With so many proposals to wade through and study thoroughly, it’s a wonder that anyone still thinks that the best time for a plebiscite is in May 2018. Of course, if Congress—that is to say both the House of Representatives and the Senate—decrees that such a plebiscite take place in May anyway, it’s difficult to imagine the Commission on Elections (Comelec) shirking its responsibility. However, that would be like fitting a square peg in a round hole—it can be made to work, sure, but it’ll be a terrible fit. Which is a shame, because some proposals—particularly those dealing with suffrage and the Comelec—are not bad at all.
There’s a lot being said about the possibility of the 2019 elections being scrapped in case the efforts to shift to federalism bear fruit. A lot of it, though, boils down to speculation. Here are the facts as they currently stand: the 1987 Constitution remains intact and in effect; who will end up being responsible for preparing the draft—either Congress convening as a constituent assembly or a new constitutional convention—hasn’t been decided; and there isn’t even a draft of the proposed new constitution yet. So all this noise being made about the issue can be solidly interpreted as being nothing more than an exercise in putting the cart before the horse.
Welcome to the new year.
IT is still a common misconception that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is moribund in between elections.
God is great.
House Bill (HB) 6604, which passed third reading in the House of Representatives this week, has the potential to change the political landscape in a massive way. Going by the news reports about the passage of the bill, which was introduced by no fewer than 24 representatives, you would think that all it does is mandate a 50-percent discount “for political propaganda on television, radio and print,” during the campaign period, while also declaring that “in no case shall rates charged to registered political parties and bona fide candidates be higher than rates charged to regular advertisers.”
When I first joined the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the assistant director for education and information, there was no officially designated spokesman. By default, it was the director for education and information who took on that role, but for the most part, anyone of sufficient rank was considered to be able to speak for the commission—at least for matters falling within the scope of their responsibilities and functions within the organization.